For the past dozen years, Congress has debated “dark money,” a term that refers to political donations, of hundreds of millions of dollars that go to campaigns without identifying donors.
Democrats have expressed their indignation and outrage that their opponents were funding campaigns with huge contributions that came from difficult-to-trace sources, and then point to the obvious influence that may result from the acceptance of those funds.
But Democrats have learned the process and now exercise it, as well or better. With so much intense opposition to ex-President Donald Trump, the Democratic Party accepted huge sums of so-called “dark money” leading up to the 2020 election.
So, while Republicans have long been accused of potential corruption, resulting from the seemingly unlimited funds routed through nonprofit organizations, which are not required to disclose donors’ identities, Democrats have caught up in recent years.
According to a New York Times analysis, fifteen top nonprofits that aligned with the Democratic Party contributed more than $1.5 billion in 2020, compared to the approximate $900 million of support by a similar 15 groups aligned with the Republican Party.
This year, Democrats brought a bill back to the Senate, to eliminate the loopholes of keeping dark money donations anonymous. The stated objective is to identify large-money donors (over $10,000) so that the public can have knowledge of sources that may be attempting to buy potential influence. The DISCLOSE Act closes loopholes and effectively limits both parties from accepting large donations without disclosing sources.
It seems like a good idea, even though both parties have successfully used the anonymity of donors to their advantage. So, why did the Democrats propose this bill? Was it for show? Maybe. Did anyone expect it to pass? Probably not. Did it pass the Senate? No.
Of course not, because this is a partisan issue. Sure, both sides have used this sleight of hand to pad their campaign coffers, but the vote was 49-49 in the Senate. Yes, 49.
Democrats voted yes (one was absent) and 49 Republicans voted no (one was absent). It took 60 votes to pass the bill.
Sen. Mitch McConnell said, in March of this year, “I'm in favor of the way campaigns and issues are currently funded." He indicated that a change would give “unelected federal bureaucrats vastly more power over private citizens’ First Amendment rights.” Really? First Amendment?
He added that his position has not changed in 25 years, and that is true. But McConnell has been a senator for 37 years, and upon examination, McConnell has exhibited the favorite Senate trait of hypocrisy in shifting from his 1997 position, when it was reported that he felt full disclosure was “the best disinfectant.” Maybe term-limits aren’t such a bad idea.
I think I agree with the 1997 version of Mitch. I have searched for arguments that justify opposition to the DISCLOSE Act, which are better than “I’m in favor of the way campaigns and issues are currently funded.” I found none.
There is finger-pointing from both parties. Republicans point to the hypocrisy of Democrats pushing for this bill after accepting huge sums in the past few years and claim that the effort is just for show. That may be valid. Democrats point to 100 per cent of Republicans voting to block a bill that seems like common sense and positive reform. They note that not a single Republican felt that full disclosure was “the best disinfectant.” Not one.
The 2022 estimated ad spending of $6.4, to-date nationally, is projected to reach a record-setting $9.7 billion by election day, shattering the previous midterm election-year high of $4 billion.
Perhaps the finger-pointing should stop, and we should pass the bill. Politicians, from both parties, may lose campaign funds if the law passes, but if Congress could agree on this (or on anything), one byproduct might be less money in political campaigns. That cannot be a bad thing.
Consider the impact — fewer political ads on TV, fewer political fliers in your mailbox, potentially shorter campaigns, and most importantly, less influence on politicians once they get elected to represent all of us — that is ALL.
This article originally appeared on Coldwater Daily Reporter: Rants by Mac: Political donors stay dark