Thursday, May 24, 2012

Anonymous Money

The 2012 election may be decided by anonymous money.  Since the disastrous Citizens United case, a SCOTUS decision that ranks with the Dred Scott decision in its sheer wrongness, anyone can give any amount of money to any candidate or political organization, and not have to say who they are or why they want to donate.

Here is the Court's chain of reasoning as I understand it:

Money in politics is a form of speech, since it can be used to buy advertising.

Since the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, any restriction on money spent in politics is unconstitutional.

The obvious implication to everyone except the Justices is that the election, and the Presidency, is now up for grabs by the people with the deepest pockets.

I suppose if we must have money-driven politics, we must; but why does it have to be anonymous?  As a matter of fact, the Justices argued that it shouldn't be anonymous; but existing law lets nonprofit 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) organizations hide their donor lists, and they do hide them.  Two questions disturb me about this situation:

Why do these donors wish to be anonymous?

Why is the Republican Party so anxious to help them remain anonymous?  (The DISCLOSE Act of 2012 has no Republican sponsors.)

Consider the first issue:  why do the donors wish to be anonymous?  I feel very deeply that if you're going to put money behind a candidate or a cause, you should put your name on it.  (Yes, I blog under a pen name; but I don't have any money on the line here, and it isn't that hard to figure out who I am.)

This bothered me in the whole Proposition 8 campaign in California about gay marriage: the opponents were willing to spend huge sums to defeat the measure, and yet they fight bitterly to hide their donor lists.  The opponents of Prop. 8 claimed to fear physical retaliation from gay rights supporters; do the Republican super-PAC donors fear crowds of angry Democrats, with pitchforks and torches? 

What do these donors, the ones donating to the super-PACs, fear?  I have to conclude that they fear the publicity that would be associated with donating money to this or that super-PAC. They want to accomplish a political end but they don't want their fellow citizens to know.  This way lies the end of the American Republic; this way lies dictatorship.  And we won't even know who the dictator is.

On the other question:  Is the Republican Party so anxious to block the DISCLOSE Act of 2012 because it doesn't want its general constituents to know who are the major donors to whom it will owe allegiance if elected?  Fits right in with the donors' reluctance, doesn't it?

If you aren't willing to put your name on your political actions, doesn't that say that there's something wrong with them?

I have just become a citizen co-sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act of 2012, which is supported by (among many others) the League of Women Voters.  I urge all of you to consider supporting this act, and to tell your representatives in Congress to pass it.

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