Editorials

Dark money wins

Not that long ago, no one disputed the necessity of transparency in the financing of political campaigns — certainly not publicly.

Even “money is speech” hawks, like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, favored strong disclosure laws so voters would know which interests and individuals were giving to gain influence.

My, how times have changed.

The dark-money forces polluting every nook and cranny of American politics scored three victories in the giant spending bill Congress approved at the end of the year, in the form of provisions that prohibit:

▪ The Internal Revenue Service from imposing new rules on 501c4 organizations that pose as tax-exempt, nonprofit social-welfare groups while functioning as super PACs that do not have to disclose their donors.

▪ The Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose their political contributions.

▪ The president from issuing an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political contributions and spending.

A McConnell-pushed provision that would have greatly increased the amount of coordinated spending by political parties on behalf of candidates was defeated, in part because Tea Party Republicans feared the GOP establishment would use it against them.

Previously unheard of amounts of money — much of it from undisclosed sources — are pouring into political campaigns because of bad Supreme Court decisions, weak enforcement by the bipartisan Federal Election Commission and actions like this by Congress. While donors may be pleased with what they’re getting from government, the public clearly is not.

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