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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Which presidential candidate gets the most secret money?

In the past few years, particularly after the Supreme Court decision to open the door to unlimited contributions by corporations and unions, secret money has poured into presidential and congressional campaigns.  Following that decision in January of 2010, the President remarked that the high court had, "given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics." 

President Obama
According to OpenSecrets.org, Obama’s large individual contributions are 63.2%, Romney 82.6%.  From Stateofenlightenment.com, Obama’s corporate donations are spread around pretty evenly between law, education, media, government, technology and finance.  But Romney comes in at 80% alone from finance with the remaining 20% spread between law, real estate and technology.  Obama has received no PAC contributions, Romney $901,524.

But the American public is fed up with this mystery cash going into political action committees (PACS) and other organizations that are formed specifically to raise millions of dollars to defeat the opposing candidate and who are also able to protect the identity of their donors.  They just may not take it anymore.  Already protesters have forced 38 corporations to cut ties with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), known as a corporate bill mill.

Following the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, Congress did not act on a bill to require disclosure of the donors.  In Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion following the ruling, he and seven other Justices in agreeing with Citizens United also upheld disclosure rules and emphasized there should be transparency.  They even envisioned voters getting campaign information from laptops or smart phones.

Kennedy added, “Prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters.”  Further, “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”  Well, it hasn’t happened and isn’t likely to happen as long as the GOP control the House.

Mitt Romney
Undisclosed donor ads were less than 2% in 2006, jumping to 25% in 2008, 40% in 2010.  It is obvious that candidates along with corporations do not want the source of this new found gold mine to be revealed and that, in itself, should tell the public that something very wrong is going on.  Otherwise, why wouldn’t both sides be eager for the American people to know how a political campaign is being run and who is supporting who?

Mark Sherman said in the Huff Post, “More than 8 in 10 Americans in a poll by The Associated Press and the National Constitution Center support limits on the amount of money given to groups that are trying to influence U.S. elections.”  He also said, “The ringing endorsement of First Amendment freedoms matched the public's view of the Constitution as an enduring document, even as Americans hold the institutions of government, other than the military, in very low regard.”

In addition, the poll found that Americans want protection for minorities in elections, probably as a result of the voter ID laws passed in many states.  Sherman commented, “The laws mainly have been backed by Republican lawmakers who say they want to combat voter fraud. Democrats, citing academic studies that found there is very little voter fraud…”  In fact the laws appear to be just a hurdle to make it harder for those minorities voting Democrat.

Ah, the games politicians play.  The big question is just how long will John and Jane Q. Public put up with it?  Perhaps that’s a question we can answer in November.

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