Disclosures: More not Less

In a New York Times / CBS poll 92% of Americans said it was important for the law to require campaigns and outside spending groups to disclose how much money they have raised, where it came from and how it was used. They understand the nexus between campaign money and corruption.

President Barack Obama has drafted an executive order that seeks campaign contribution disclosure by those who seek contracts with the United States Government.

Eight states, the Securities and Exchange Commission and several local jurisdictions currently restrict government contractors from making campaign contributions to those responsible for issuing government contracts. The president’s potential executive order does not prohibit contractor spending on campaigns; it would merely require disclosure.

“In order to increase transparency and accountability…every contracting department and agency shall require all entities submitting offers for federal contracts to disclose certain political contributions and expenditures that they have made within the two years prior to submission of their offer,” reads the draft order.

“This disclosure shall include:

(a) All contributions or expenditures to or on behalf of federal candidates, parties or party committees made by a bidding entity, its directors of officers, or any affiliates or subsidiaries within its control; and
(b) Any contributions made to third party entities with the intention or reasonable expectation that parties would use those contributions to make independent expenditures or electioneering communications

This disclosure shall be required whenever the aggregate amount of such contributions and expenditures made by the bidding entity, its officers and directors, and its affiliates and subsidiaries exceeds $5,000 to a given recipient during a given year.”

The disclosed date “shall be made publicly available in a centralized, searchable, sortable, downloadable and machine readable format on data.gov.”

The president’s order would be a welcome first step since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2010. It would go a long way towards eliminating the current Pay-to-Play system. Reporting on the draft executive order, president of Public Citizen Robert Weisman, states, “The pay-to-play system encourages fraud and abuses of power, prevents contracts from being awarded to businesses based on merit, wastes taxpayer dollars, and facilitates privatization and contracting out of services that otherwise could or should be provided by government agencies.”

The real solution, of course, is a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision that was made outside the issues before the Supreme Court in that case. In Citizens United, the Supreme Court established personhood for corporations in contradiction to constitutional rights intended for natural persons.

It will come as no surprise that conservative politicians and trade associations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have howled about disclosure. Having achieved their first objective to allow companies to make massive expenditures from their general treasuries to influence election outcomes, including by funneling money through front groups, the focus has turned to manufacturing false premises to prohibit campaign spending disclosure.

It is not enough that corporatocracy virtually owns our various governments. It now becomes necessary to shield that ownership from public knowledge and scrutiny.

More information on efforts to amend the constitution to prohibit corporate personhood can be found at the following sites:

http://movetoamend.org/
http://freespeechforpeople.org/
http://democracyisforpeople.org/

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