Posted: 02/07/16 09:22
by Dave Mindeman
Election season. The end of the campaign. With the election just days away you go to your mailbox and pull out five, six, or more of these slick, glossy cards with lots of bold type words, grainy photos, and a guarantee that someone running for office is the worst possible human being ever.
You wonder how they know this or who is saying it. But you can't know because it is hidden by the "dark side" of campaign finance disclosure.
Oh, there will be a small note at the bottom that says "paid for by....", but the name used will always be some generic, innocent sounding name like "Americans for Prosperity"; Friends of Trees; or Society for Energy Independence. You maybe would want to know who is behind this group. Maybe you look them up on the website - but what you will get is more of the same words and pictures that your glossy friend in the mailbox has displayed so prominently.
But you will never see the name of any specific person connected or responsible.
Most political money hides. It avoids the sunlight. It is like the smoking guy on the X-Files.....stays in the alley and talks from the shadows.
Political donors with large checkbooks gravitate to these shadow groups because they can advocate without consequence. They don't have to be open about the way they want things to be...and often it is because what they want is very self serving. And if people are aware of that, it will affect how they see the information.
The Minnesota House Democrats have proposed a Minnesota Constitutional amendment to fix that. Their bill would....
The bill would require disclosure for "contributions and expenditures made for communications that clearly identify a candidate and use words or phrases of express advocacy." It would also cover any ads or mailings that a reasonable person would interpret as advocating for or against a candidate, even if they aren't explicitly mentioned.
Rep. Laurie Halvorson (Eagan) will carry the bill in the House. Her campaign and other Eagan Democratic campaigns are certainly not strangers to this type of political advertising....
"I saw what it did to my community to have those kinds of mail pieces hit day after day after day," Halverson said. "I saw the confusion that it caused my constituents, and the frustration it caused, and the ways their voices felt diminished."
Now, this is a MN Constitutional Amendment. I imagine it will only apply to State politics, not Federal. It would have to pass both Houses of the Legislature to get on the 2016 ballot.
And it will probably never see the light of day.
Because Republicans like it this way. Oh, you will hear them complain about this problem. They will agree that "something should be done". There is too much money being used in this way.
But when the votes get tallied, they will support the status quo. They will stop this measure in its tracks, because corporations and wealthy donors do not want to see their names on public disclosure forms. And what they think is what Republicans think.
It would be nice if the bill could at least get a hearing. If a debate could be had on the floor. Minnesota could use some transparency in how the political system operates.
It would be nice. But don't hold your breath on that one.