Presto! The DISCLOSE Act Disappears
Ask any magician and they’ll tell you that the secret to a successful magic trick is misdirection — distracting the crowd so they don’t realize how they’re being fooled. Get them watching your left hand while your right hand palms the silver dollar: “Now you see it, now you don’t.” The purloined coin now belongs to the magician.
Just like democracy. Once upon a time conservatives supported the full disclosure of campaign contributors. Now they oppose it with their might — and magic, especially when it comes to unlimited cash from corporations. My goodness, they say, with a semantic wave of the wand, what’s the big deal?: nary a single Fortune 500 company had given a dime to the super PACs. (Even that’s not entirely true, by the way.)
Meanwhile the other hand is poking around for loopholes, stuffing millions of secret corporate dollars into non-profit, tax-exempt organizations called 501(c)s that funnel the money into advertising on behalf of candidates or causes. Legally, in part because the Federal Election Commission does not consider them political committees, they can keep it all nice and anonymous, never revealing who’s really behind the donations or the political ads they buy. This is especially handy for corporations — why risk offending customers by revealing your politics or letting them know how much you’re willing to shell out for a permanent piece of an obliging politician?
That’s why passing a piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act is so important and that’s why on Monday, Republicans in the Senate killed it. Again.
Why? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Perhaps Republicans want to shield the handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election.” The election, he said, may be bought by “17 angry, old, white men.”
The DISCLOSE Act is meant to pull back the curtain and reveal who’s donating $10,000 or more not only to super PACs but also to trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and these so-called “social welfare” non-profits that can spend limitless cash on campaigns as long as it’s less than half the organization’s total budget.