DISCLOSE Act’s Lead Sponsor: We Need Campaign Finance Reform to Protect Incumbents
Following up on my piece last week on the newest version of the DISCLOSE Act, which failed a cloture vote to overcome a GOP filibuster last night, and which will face another cloture vote around 3pm Eastern today, I wanted to share this interview of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), the lead sponsor of S.3369, conducted by progressive talk radio host Sam Seder at this year’s Netroots Nation conference.
Around the 1:35 mark, Sen. Whitehouse says (emphasis added)
I’ve been a prosecutor. I’ve prosecuted public corruption cases. It’s a very short leap to say, “Look, if you’re going to allow anonymous corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections….” The issue isn’t just how they spend it. The issue is how they threaten to spend it. The scariest thing from a public corruption point of view about Citizens United isn’t the coal industry running and ad against somebody someplace. It’s the coal industry going into their office with their lobbyists and saying to them, “Here’s the ad, pal. We’re going to put $5 million behind it in your home state. Nobody will know we have our hands on it, because it’s going to come through Americans for Peace, Prosperity, and Puppies. And you’re never going to be able to trace it back to us. And it trashes you, and the only way you can dodge that bullet is by voting right with us.” And if the person chickens out and votes right, they will have been corrupted and there won’t be a single election expenditure. There’ll be nothing to trace, and the fact that the Supreme Court couldn’t think through to that step is a very clear sign of how opaque that [Washington] bubble is.
Oy. Setting aside for a moment that, not to my knowledge (and I worked for a 501(c)(6) trade association) has a lobbyist ever wasted valuable time in a Hill meeting (usually with a staffer, almost never with a Member) threatening someone with running a campaign ad (wouldn’t that be extortion? and wouldn’t we hear a lot more stories about this sort of thing actually happening from our enlightened progressive overlords in the Senate if it was, you know, actually ever happening?), or that it would be poor political strategy to reveal to your opponent the attack you’re about to use on them, or that the Supreme Court didn’t “think through to that step” because that’s, um, not the function of either the law or the Court, it’s awfully refreshing to hear the lead sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act say on the record that we need campaign finance reform to protect incumbent lawmakers.
It’d be awfully nice if our lawmakers were more concerned with protecting our First Amendment rights than they are with protecting their own asses. And yet here we are.
Photo courtesy of the Office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.