Pass Disclose Act to end secret donor political ads
The Kansas City Star
Let us not quickly forget the onslaught of attack ads that blanketed the nation during this most-expensive-ever election cycle.
The lame-duck Congress, now back in session, is populated by those on the receiving and giving ends of ads that twisted isolated votes, sprayed intentionally unattractive pictures across TV screens, and mocked candidates with dire warnings of what their selection would mean.
A rational person might recall all this and conclude: Surely Congress will fix this mess. And there are hints that more members may finally be willing to take action to better expose, if not stop, the rivers of secret money that poured into 2012 campaigns.
Last July, the GOP stymied another effort to pass the Disclose Act, introduced as the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act. Attempts to pass that bill must be revived.
Even though the biggest secret money donors mostly backed losing candidates this cycle, the electorate needs to be informed about who is attempting to buy favors.
The Disclose Act requires groups making more than $10,000 in campaign-related expenditures to reveal contributors who donate more than $10,000. The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation has reported that outside groups spent most of their money on negative ads.
The soured public needs relief. A start would be real-time, online transparent reporting of all political money — be it direct donations, bundled money or money slipped into 501(c) so-called nonprofit independent groups that fail the “independent’ test by any reasonable interpretation.
While Super PACs, candidates and party expenditures must be reported to the Federal Election Commission, many last-minute spending reports come post-election, denying voters information they should have before they cast ballots.
With the Internet, all campaign donation reporting should be required within 24 hours and easily accessible on the Web. American deserve to know who is trying to influence their votes and whom each candidate may be beholden to before voting.
Passage of the Disclose Act would begin to repair frayed public trust. Full exposure might give some donors more pause about what kind of ads they want to be known as supporting. The over-the-top negativity just might drop a notch.