Dark Money outrages

Phil Harrison, Feb. 2014

In its Citizens United decision in 2010, the Supreme Court majority claimed that the transparency required by campaign finance laws would let people know who is trying to buy our government:

“This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

Why was the Court so oblivious to the potential for abuse that that is now manifest with the massive flows of dark money in our politics?

They apparently did not take into account the exception provided to “social welfare” organizations to engage in political activity without revealing their donors, so long as the spending is less than 50% of their budget. As if this loophole were not enough, some organizations have spent more with impunity. How is this possible? The answer is revealed in one acronym: FEC (Federal Elections Commission).

According to law, it is the Commission that must enforce campaign finance violations, and to do this, the commissioners must vote to proceed after being presented with the facts of a complaint. Since the Commission consists of three Democrats and three Republicans, all enforcement votes on dark money have been deadlocked, with the Republicans voting “No”.

If someone intended to create a corrupt system, they certainly found a clever way to achieve it!

At last, someone is trying to do something about this. According to Brad Friedman, “a number of unhappy ‘good government’ groups will file a lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission next month, hoping that the courts will force the FEC to enforce the federal campaign finance laws that the FEC is, supposedly, there to enforce.” (See http://www.bradblog.com/?p=10472)

Perhaps the courts will recognize the corruption for what it is and take meaningful action, but is that to be expected from the very Court which enabled the situation in the first place?