The Shady Business of Political Contributions

If you haven’t been living under a rock (and if you have a news source other than Glenn Beck), you’ve probably heard about the ruckus that was caused when Target and Best Buy made a combined donation of $250,000 of both cash and in-kind gifts to Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.  I’ll spare the long drawn out rant about the frightening ramifications of electing any of the many Tom Emmers that are out there because that’s not really my main focus at the moment.  The real point behind all of this is that the very foundation of a government by the PEOPLE and for the PEOPLE is being stolen from us.  Recently, decisions have been made that negatively impact the transparency of our entire election process.  Conservatives scream out about the “special interest groups” and the “gay agenda” (I’ve still yet to figure out exactly what this gay agenda is… but apparently I have one.  I’ll keep you posted if I have a revelation about this at a later date) but they conveniently forget to tell the full story about how our country is being stolen from American citizens and being handed over, gift wrapped, to anonymous third parties.

Earlier this year, in Citizens United V. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations were able to donate freely to political campaigns (because the first amendment not only protects free speech on an individual level from a meddling government… it also apparently ensures that corporations have no responsibility to anyone), ending a ban that ensured only real individuals would be able to buy their politicians.  Despite vast corporations being able to buy politicians with their limitless donation potential, we at least have the comfort of knowing that we will be able to see their donations and utilize our own purchasing power against companies that do not support our own political views… right?  Wrong.  Not only are big corporations able to now throw their nearly endless financial resources to reshaping our elections, but there is NO federal law that ensures that political contributions must be reported and made public.

Disclosure of political contributions is currently left up to the states (gotta love that good ol’ state’s rights crap, right?).  The only reason why we were lucky enough to find out that Target and Best Buy wanted to purchase a politician who sought to eliminate funding for HIV/AIDS programs because teaching about the virus is too sexually explicit, ban gay parents from having custody of children and outlaw gay marriage, was because Minnesota has a disclosure law on political contributions.  Several conservative groups (these groups hate the gays, a woman’s right to choose and pretty much everyone who isn’t them) are now challenging the constitutionality of disclosure laws for political contributions to ensure that no one knows who is buying their government.  As of September 20, we will see if a federal judge upholds the idea that government should be transparent, or if this judge will give limitless power to an unnamed few who are able to buy our elections with no repercussions.

So the next logical step in my thinking was, “Why should donors be able to remain anonymous?”  In a world where I can find out every dramatic turn of events in the lives of nearly everyone on the planet through Twitter and Facebook, how can anyone get away with being the shadowy figure pulling the puppet strings in our government?  Apparently the answer is religious persecution.  These folks believe they should be able to hide behind their bigotry because if they aren’t shielded from public sight, they will be targeted and their personal safety will be compromised.  Seriously? Pardon me if I’m fairly unsympathetic to the Christian right’s fear of their own safety.  I’m fairly certain that there have been more minorities murdered, beaten and abused by right-wing religious nut jobs in the US than the other way around.

The National Organization for Marriage (An organization that should actually be named “Gay Marriages Will End the World”) took a similar approach with their summer bus tour this year.  They created a sham bus tour hoping that protestors would come to their events so that they could show that the safety of their members would be at risk if they were forced to release their donor records.  (How funny that a group seeking to bar a group of people from their constitutional rights would have the audacity to think that THEY were the ones being persecuted).  This new push to shield political contributions from the public is of the same vein.  It is simply a thinly vieled attempt to claim people who seek to keep gay people  second class citizens are really the ones in danger of having their rights taken away.

We need legislation on a federal level (this time one that isn’t killed by a republican filibuster) that will keep our elections clean, transparent and free from meddling invisible hands.  When the enemies of equal protection under the law are invisible, there is absolutely no hope to defeating them.  No matter what your beliefs are, it is in the best interests of every real person in our country (not some corporate “person”) to demand full disclosure from our government in our elections.

Alex

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~ by prettyprogressive on 09/01/2010.

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