December 26, 2015

SO MUCH FOR PRIVACY: The New York Slimes Times editorial board laments that “Political Dark Money Just Got Darker.”  After (again) bashing the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, the NYT editors focus on the liberal/progressive campaign finance cause du jour: mandating disclosure of the identity of donors to 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations, such as some tea party groups, the National Organization for Women, AARP, various ACLU chapters, right to life committees, kennel clubs, Rotary clubs, environmental groups, fan clubs, and voting rights organizations.

The rationale for such disclosure? So-called “dark” money. In the words of the NYT editors:

In the new budget bill, Republicans inserted a provision blocking the Internal Revenue Service from creating rules to curb the growing abuse of the tax law by thinly veiled political machines posing as “social welfare” organizations. These groups are financed by rich special-interest donors who do not have to reveal their identities under the tax law. So much for effective disclosure at the I.R.S.

In another move to keep the public blindfolded about who is writing big corporate checks for federal candidates, the Republicans barred the Securities and Exchange Commission from finalizing rules requiring corporations to disclose their campaign spending to investors. It was Citizens United that foolishly envisioned a world in which: “Shareholders can determine whether their corporation’s political speech advances the corporation’s interest in making profits, and citizens can see whether elected officials are ‘in the pocket’ of so-called moneyed interests.”

In acting to seal that pocket and hobble the I.R.S., congressional Republicans are advancing what has become the dark age of plutocratic money in campaign spending. At every turn, they are veiling the truth about the special-interest ties they have with rich donors shopping for favors. Since the Citizens United decision in January 2010, politicians have collected more than $500 million in dark money from phantom donors, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with hundreds of millions more expected in the current campaign.

Since the people’s elected representatives have so foolishly thwarted the liberals’/progressives’ attempt to invade individual privacy in the guise of “disclosure,” the NYT editors have this modest proposal:

Is there any ray of light in this moneyed darkness?

For two years, President Obama has dithered and withheld the one blow he could easily strike for greater political transparency: the signing of an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their campaign spending. This would not solve the overall problem, but in mandating new disclosures in time for the 2016 elections it would help affirm that democracy is about transparency. Mr. Obama should sign the order now. If Republicans want to make an issue of this, let them — and let them defend the scourge of dark money before the voters on the campaign trail.

That’s classic. An iconic liberal/progressive newspaper’s editorial board, frustrated by the “inaction” (i.e., disagreement) by Congress on its liberal/progressive agenda, is demanding that the President “go around” Congress to issue an executive order mandating disclosure of the identities of donors to 501(c)(4) organizations that have government contracts.

I guess liberals/progressives only value individual privacy when it comes in the form of de-identified metadata about cell phone calls and “democracy” only when it creates results with which it agrees. Big Brother wants to know to whom you are giving your money, so that it can bring you out of the “darkness” of privacy.  And if the people’s elected representatives won’t force you out of the “darkness,” one person–the President–should do it unilaterally. Nice.

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