Part I: Would Campaign Finance Transparency Result in Donor Bullying?
When it comes to changing his tune on disclosure, the rank hypocrisy of Senator Mitch McConnell is not that surprising. The audacity of it is breathtaking, but the swing was predictable. After all, Senator McConnell is first and foremost a politician who, as Senate Minority Leader, is doing everything he can for his party to gain control of the government. If anonymous funding appears at this point to benefit his party, disclosure is bad. If the shoe were on the other foot - if the Democrats seemed to be gaining advantage at the moment from opaque spending - you can be assured he would be harping against secret money.
While there is no doubt that recent Court decisions and a moribund FEC are working hard to destroy the current campaign finance regulatory system, the one area where the Senator McConnell and his allies have lost consistently in the courts is on disclosure. Their efforts to analogize a possible threat of harassment of current donors to the threats of harm faced by members of the NAACP in the Deep South in the 1950s are honestly a bit sad - and revealing.
There’s no doubt that our political discourse has become less civil and angrier. But there is no record showing that real, widespread, repeated or serious harm has occurred. To sacrifice meaningful disclosure about who is spending money to influence the outcome of our elections - and thus who controls government power - to a theoretical concern about “chilled” or “muzzled” speech is just a fig leaf for a political agenda.
This opinion piece by Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee originally appeared in Politico's Arena on June 26, 2012.