The new current issue that has completely taken over the media is the DISCLOSE Act. At its most basic level, this act would require all corporations, labor unions, political groups, etc. to disclose anyone who donates over $10,000 during an election year. No Republicans in the Senate voted for it, and now there are cries everywhere that “angry old white men” are buying the country (Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader), or that “Republicans stood with big banks and oil companies” (President Barack Obama).
Numerous petitions have started to lament the resistance against the DISCLOSE Act. This media hype, this political hatred against all rich Republican people is completely misguided. Let’s consider again the myths and take a look of some of the actual facts.
1) “Secret money” is a one-sided problem. False.
In past elections, Democrats have outspent Republicans with “soft money” (organizations that can accept unrestricted donations.) In 2006, the ratio was almost 2 to 1. The point is, sometimes the Democrat spends more, sometimes the Republican spends more.
2) Corporate money caused the Republicans to win big in 2010. Again, false.
Although the President and media outlets everywhere predicted a “flood of corporate money” after Citizens United, this never came. Instead, there was a flood of union money – almost 3 times the amount spent by corporations. Corporations are actually reluctant to engage in special-interest political activism because they face a risk of alienating customers and investors.
3) Big Banks control the Republican Party. Also false.
If this is true, why did Goldman Sachs donate $1,013,091 to Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, while donating only $240,295 to McCain? Obama’s top contributors in ’08 include JP Morgan, Citigroup…not exactly small banks. In fact, each of Obama’s top 20 supporters in 2008 donated more money than McCain’s highest.
Here’s the bottom line. The DISCLOSE Act requires even more companies and organizations to reveal all of their donors’ names and addresses publicly. So let’s say you’re a wealthy person, and you donated $10,000 to Google because you like their products. It is your money, and you are completely in your rights to do this. Let us also say it just happens to be an election year. If they decide to run an ad about a certain political issue at any time in that election year, your name, home address, and donation amount will be publicly displayed to the world as an assumed “contributor” to Google’s political cause. Does this law force transparency? Yes. But at the price of privacy? I would argue yes as well. I don’t want the government to always know when and where I made a donation, let alone any person who has access to the Internet.
What do I mean? You can already find the names and home addresses of all donors to all SuperPACs (political action committees that can accept unlimited donations) on the Federal Election Committee website. Personally, I think that’s kind of scary. Now I’m not sure what the reporting requirements for SuperPACS are, but there are some individuals who are listed on that website for giving as low as $50.
Corporations and their employees also tend to spread their donations fairly evenly between the two major parties, unlike unions, which overwhelmingly assist Democrats. In 2008, Democrats received 55% of the $2 billion contributed by corporate PACs and company employees, while labor unions were responsible for $75 million in political donations, with 92% of it going to Democrats.”… The bill before us today is clearly designed to offer disclosure in some instances, while allowing some, primarily labor unions, to speak and spend under convenient spending disclosure thresholds.
The bill’s requirements would allow unions to ignore reporting union members’ dues payments as well as many smaller local union payments to the national union headquarters, thanks to the “affiliate payment” clause.
The bottom line? This is just a political tool that makes it more difficult for all organizations to get donations because of the privacy risk. Unions obviously will have no problem, because their “donations” are mandatory dues. Bringing up this law at a time when Romney is relentlessly criticized for his wealth is a political strategy move. In fact, the law was secretly put on the floor calendar, skipping over the standard committee and mark-up times that Senate bills usually have to go through.
Even if Romney ends up spending more than Obama, what does it matter? When’s the last time you saw a political commercial and decided, “You’re right, I’m changing all my positions.” This article on Freakonomics by Jeff Milyo, an economics professor at University of Missouri at Columbia, has done much research on the matter. He says,
I have examined several other natural experiments and found similar results. For example, large shocks to campaign spending from changes in campaign finance regulations do not produce concomitant impacts on electoral success, nor do candidates with vast personal wealth to spend on their campaigns fare better than other candidates… People just aren’t that malleable; and for that reason, campaign spending is far less important in determining election outcomes than many people believe (or fear).
The next time someone tries to tell you the Republicans shot down the DISCLOSE Act so that Romney could win, bring up a few of these facts. You may also want to mention that none of the provisions in the act would have taken effect until 2013 anyway.