Our Democracy is Not Based on Secrecy
- Dale Eisman
Tens of thousands of Americans are engaged this October in the good work of citizenship: running for office, contributing their money, time and talents on behalf of candidates and causes.
These Americans are justifiably proud of their activities. They join in civic life with pride, signing their names to letters-to-the-editor, identifying themselves when they go door-to-door to distribute campaign literature, openly contributing money to candidates and political action groups. They understand that transparency is fundamental to fair play in politics.
But this year, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, a few “citizens” have decided to hedge their bets and exploit our political rules; they’re trying to tell the rest of us how to vote without revealing who they are or what they have at stake in our elections.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is merely the most visible player in this game. The Chamber and some other trade groups and corporations are pouring millions of dollars into our political system in secret, using the tax laws to hide their own involvement, as well as their donors.
Even worse, questions are being raised about whether the Chamber, which has pledged to invest up to $75 million in this campaign cycle, is providing a conduit for foreign businesses to influence the elections. The Chamber denies it, but so far has declined to open its books for inspection.
Our democracy is not based on secrecy. If disclosure is what we deserve from the people who run for office and the people who contribute to candidates, surely it’s what we deserve from EVERYONE who invests in our political system, especially those investing millions of dollars.
Even if every penny of the Chamber’s political spending comes from domestic sources, the money – and all the rest of what’s being spent under the cloak of secrecy – is tainted.
And the sad fact is this all could have been avoided. The DISCLOSE Act, twice blocked from even coming up for a vote in the Senate by a minority of senators through the filibuster, would have imposed reasonable disclosure requirements on the Chamber and other groups now exploiting campaign finance laws.
And the Fair Elections Now Act, ready for passage in the House when it comes to a vote, would let candidates run competitive races without having to rely on big donors, foreign or domestic.
When Congress returns to Washington after the election, it must get busy and pass both DISCLOSE and the Fair Elections Now Act. Americans shouldn’t have to endure another election year in which we can’t know who is spending mystery money, foreign or domestic, by the millions to affect who gets chosen in our own elections.