Lack of support for a controversial bill is criticized by Obama; though he overlooks its inherent partisanship.
By Micah Hanks
Yesterday at a brief Rose Garden press conference, President Obama spoke out in anticipation of a Senate vote scheduled for 2:45 PM today that will likely end debate on the controversial DISCLOSE act. The bill, aimed at reversing many of the provisions now permitted in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, is primarily billed a measure of campaign finance reform. However, Senate Republicans will likely vote it down, and this anticipation prompted Mr. Obama to quip before reporters, “You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections would not be a partisan issue,” adding that, “of course, this is Washington in 2010.”
Washington, 2010 indeed. Welcome to a new nation’s capital where the interests and concerns of the citizenry are overridden–or overlooked–by elected officials so blinded by their own partisanship that many of the measures in legislation like the DISCLOSE act become shamelessly smothered in deception. Arguably, even many of the politicians supporting it fail to see this, as they remain amped-up by the sham that has become their own mythic legacy.
Our commander in chief is right, however. Reducing corporate and foreign influence over elections are key issues that any principled politician–conservative or liberal–should be concerned with. Fortunately, there are also existing laws that address these concerns at least in part; so what’s the big deal? Probing this perspective a bit deeper provides a clearer look at the obvious partisanship an act like DISCLOSE actually contains, which must be so evident that it was overlooked by its supporters:
- DISCLOSE is the first major campaign finance bill since 1943 not to treat corporations and unions equally. While corporations are targeted duly in DISCLOSE, no such provisions exist that pertain to unions. Additionally, unions with minimal foreign involvement are exempt, in spite of concerns over “foreign influence.” The same does not apply to those corporations with 20% or less foreign ownership.
- Similarly, many existing portions of the Federal Election Campaign Act remain unaffected by the Citizens United decision. One example would be that regulations exist pertaining to foreign-owned corporations, something DISCLOSE is alleged to be taking to task (albeit a bit late).
- Federal laws also exist that place rigorous restrictions on independent expenditures by individuals. Pertaining to various set amounts, these detail the filing of reports with the FEC disclosing the name of the spender, as well as the date and amount. Individuals also must name the candidate they support, swearing that they in no way were coerced or were involved in coordinations with the candidate.
- If the amount of money this individual donates is, for instance, a contribution made up of the combined donations of the individual and a supporting friend, that person’s name must be disclosed also.
- Reports filed to the IRS by “527″ non-profit organizations must detail donor lists, with similar provisions maintained among political action committees (PACs) delivered to the FEC.
- All political ads contain disclaimers that state “paid for by,” or other similar wording used to detail the individual or group who payed for the advertisement.
The DISCLOSE act seeks to address loopholes and gray-areas in campaign finance that involve all the circumstances outlined above; so what is it intended to “reform”? It does place tighter restrictions on many of these measures, such as vastly increasing the amount of info that must be included in political ads, thus potentially lengthening the ad and raising costs, or cutting into time within the ad that can be spent discussing its message. Either way, the focus is to make it a greater burden for the production and airing of the advertisements altogether. Additionally, raised restrictions on the time period prior to an election during which such ads can air will be mandated, thus preventing ads from airing for a majority of the key months leading up to caucuses, primaries and general elections. But perhaps worst of all, the DISCLOSE act–billed as legislation targeting not only corporations, but interest groups–includes exemptions for some of the most powerful special interest groups and organizations in the country. It comes as no surprise that the NRA, America’s largest and most wide-spread group of this sort, shows bi-partisan support for advocates of gun-rights; while this is a noble cause in itself, many of the politicians who pushed for such exemptions received endorsements from the group, which in some states and jurisdictions may often provide a much-needed key toward re-election.
Again, the President’s statement from earlier reads, “You’d think that reducing corporate and even foreign influence over our elections would not be a partisan issue.” Such words are sour with irony, taking into consideration the numerous ways in which the very bill he chooses to criticize his opposition over is laden with partisanship favoring his party.
Apparently, this is Washington in 2010, Mr. President.
Image by milan81 via Flickr.