Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned Monday afternoon that if Congress fails to limit campaign donations from the wealthy, a group of "angry, old white men" with billions of dollars to contribute will be able to determine political outcomes in the United States.
Reid's remarks on the Senate floor set up a vote later in the day on the Disclose Act, which would require companies and groups to report all campaign spending above $10,000. He said Republicans were expected to prevent consideration of the bill.
"Their newfound opposition to transparency makes one wonder who they're trying to protect," Reid said. He then offered the theory that Republicans do not want voters to learn about how they are sourced, and indicated that GOP money comes from a few wealthy contributors.
"Perhaps Republicans want to shield a handful of billionaires willing to contribute nine figures to sway a close presidential election," he said. "If this flood of outside money continues, the day after the election, 17 angry, old white men will wake up and realize they just bought the country."
The Disclose Act is a reaction to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case, which said the government cannot limit campaign spending by corporations, unions or other groups. Democrats have sought to temper that ruling by requiring these groups to publicly report their campaign spending.
As usual, certain pundits were throwing their hands into the air and screaming about what a horrible thing Harry Reid just said. Does he even know what he's talking about?!
Actually, yes. And I'll explain why. No wait, I already did!
Sheldon Adelson has already dumped tens of MILLIONS of dollars into pro-Romney and pro-Congressional Republican Super PACs. In addition to "Mr. Macau Megabucks", Romney has lined up even more corporate titans to bundle for his campaign. Yet while they're raising money for Romney, he refuses to tell us who they are and how much they're giving.
Here's the problem. As Desert Beacon warned us yesterday, we're seeing elections turn into auctions. This is not what our Founders had ever intended.
It's horrifying enough that we now live in an era when a few ultra-rich individuals and multinational corporations can spend as much as they want to buy elections. It's even scarier that we don't know the full picture of who's actually giving how much to what. In a rational environment, the DISCLOSE Act is just basic common sense. It's really the least that can be done to help us figure out who's behind the shadowy attack ads popping up on our TVs, tablets, and mailboxes.
But apparently, Capitol Hill is no longer a rational environment. And common sense is now being vilified for overly political reasons. I'll let Kevin Drum explain this.
The DISCLOSE Act was initially a response to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which permitted unlimited contributions to independent expenditure groups but explicitly allowed Congress to require disclosure of those contributions. From the very start, though, the DISCLOSE Act was opposed more-or-less unanimously by Republicans. The thing is, disclosure had always been something of a fig leaf for them, a way of demonstrating that they had a reasonable policy alternative to contribution limits. But once they had the Supreme Court on their side, making contribution limits a dead letter, they suddenly didn't need the fig leaf anymore and support for disclosure evaporated. That happened the very first time the DISCLOSE Act was introduced in 2010, and it's been the solid Republican position ever since. It really doesn't have anything to do with the current campaign season.
But that's not the whole story. The current Republican position is not merely that Democrats want to "shame" rich donors, but that Barack Obama has compiled a Nixonian "enemies list" and is secretly using the full power of the United States government to harrass and intimidate anyone who dares to oppose him. Because of this, it only stands to reason that America's richest and most powerful citizens need to keep their campaign contributions in the shadows. Whether the Republican leadership has actually talked themselves into believing this fantasy, or merely trots it out to gull the Fox News set, is anyone's guess.
Ironically enough, "Senator by Appointment Only" Dean Heller was too busy "campaigning" to even bother voting on the DISCLOSE Act yesterday. How funny. So for Heller, campaign finance reform is only important when he distorts Shelley Berkley's record in his attack ads to make himself look better? OK, whatever.
I just wonder what Dean Heller and Mitt Romney will say to each other when Romney returns to Reno on August 3. It's supposedly his last trip to Northern Nevada before the election. And of course, it's for an uber-exclusive very-high-dollar fundraiser full of rich, angry, old white men (with a few of those women folk allowed in).