Friday, June 8, 2012

Americans for obfuscation

While money is the mother's milk of politics, obfuscation is its new brother.

Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited campaign contributions, now makes it possible for incredibly wealthy people to give incredibly large donations. The problem is that they can do so anonymously while pretending to be just plain simple folk interested only in doing good.

With the shackles off, it should come as no surprise that corporations will try to shape public policy to their own ends.

The New York Times recently reported on something called the Committee to Save New York. CSNY is a 501c4 nonprofit social advocacy group that is not required to disclose sources of its money.

According to a CSNY spokesman, the group has "a reform agenda designed to help create jobs, improve the economy of our state and get state government working for the people again." Amazingly, expanding gambling is not mentioned, but the Times discovered that a subsidiary of Southeast Asia's largest gambling company was among those who gave at least $2 million to this group.

Money and secrecy make for a dangerous combination. If gambling companies or other corporate-interest groups want to give a zillion dollars to a state or national candidate, so be it, as long as they have to put their own names on their donations. Unions like SEIU or the NEA or ASCME don't hide their donations behind benignly patriotic sounding names like the Committee to Save New York or Americans For Prosperity.

Individuals and trade groups are now pouring millions of dollars into our elections. We, as citizens united, should have the right to know at least who they are.

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