Twice last week, U.S. Senate Republicans blocked attempts by Democrats to pass a bill that requires Super PACs and independent campaign committees to disclose their donors in more detail. Meaning, where the money is coming from. Republican Senators voted against and Democratic ones voted in favor. These funds are now more than ever before flooding the political world with money from special interests, after the courts (including the U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United decision) decided that corporations-and unions-are persons and have the same constitutional rights as individuals.
This opened the floodgates of direct and unlimited donations to what are now called Super PACs-but also to the use of other independent committees to channel those funds. The trick is that the Super PACs do have to disclose their donors’ details, but not so independent committees. So what is happening is that those committees are receiving funds from anyone and then channeling them to Super PACs or candidates under a different name-and voilà. A pending bill whose acronym is “DISCLOSE” was attempting to add some transparency to the process-not limiting the funds, but implementing more requirements to disclose that information.
The amount of money going into political campaigns has increased noticeably based on the Citizens United decision in 2010. This year’s campaign is estimated to be the most expensive in the history of the country, contributing even more to the image of buying and selling of influence and the growing lack of confidence Americans have in their political and governmental systems.
No wonder GOP Senator John McCain once said that Citizens United was “the worst decision of the United States Supreme Court in the 21st century.” There are many of his colleagues in the Senate who would like for the new world created by this decision to remain exactly as it is.