On Friday, the House passed an anti-transparency amendment, which would “prohibit the use of funds to implement any rule, regulation, or executive order regarding the disclosure of political contributions.” This amendment would strip away the Obama Administration’s ability to mitigate the flood of corporate money that started buying American elections after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC by requiring corporate donors to disclose their contributions.
Bizarrely, 18 Democrats joined nearly every Republican to pass this amendment 259 to 169. The 18 Democrats who voted to protect corporate America’s power to secretly spend unlimited amounts of money influencing elections are:
Jason Altmire (PA-4); John Barrow (GA-12); Dan Boren (OK-2); Ben Chandler (KY-6); Gerald Connolly (VA-11); Jim Cooper (TN-5); Jerry Costello (IL-12); Mark Critz (PA-12); Henry Cuellar (TX-28); Peter DeFazio (OR-4); Michael Honda (CA-15); Jim Matheson (UT-2); William Owens (NY-23); Edward Pastor (AZ-4); Colin Peterson (MN-7); Nick Rahall (WV-3); Mike Ross (AR-4); and Heath Shuler (NC-11)
It’s anyone’s guess why these members of Congress choose to place corporate interest groups ahead of the integrity of American elections, but it is possible that they were influenced by a massive corporate PR and lobbying campaign against transparency in campaign finance. After news broke that the Obama Administration is considering issuing an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their campaign donations, industry groups responded by ginning up paranoid fantasies claiming that the administration would use these disclosures to create a “pay to play” scenario where only contractors who donate to Democratic causes could receive contracts.
But, of course, this scenario is actually the opposite of what would actually happen if disclosure were mandated. During the Bush Administration, former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigned in disgrace after he was implicated in widespread scandals involving cutting President Bush’s opponents out of the contracting process and awarding contracts to his personal cronies. Had a disclosure rule been in effect, however, it would have been possible to compare the donation patterns of all government contractors against who was awarding them contracts, and systematically uncover examples of political corruption.
Transparency is the enemy of corruption — not the means to implement it. It is very sad that a majority of the House chose to ignore this simple and obvious fact.