Do you doubt that money can buy access? How about political outcomes?
Disturbingly, Florida has the reputation as the most corrupt state. A study by the Department of Justice found that since 1999, Florida had the highest number of convicted officials. This is the result of corruption in government that comes when corporations, unions, lobbyists and special interests spend millions to get the elected officials they want into power.
But making the problem much worse: The sources of these funds are often hidden. Secret funding in elections is dangerous to a democracy. A new Washington Post report shows that nearly all of the independent advertising being aired for the 2012 general-election campaign has come from interest groups that do not disclose their donors.
How do you feel about most of the political spending over the next six months coming from invisible sources?
In its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the floodgates for big-money special interests in our elections. And one of the effects of the ruling is that the really big money can be spent in complete secrecy. Corporations, unions and wealthy individuals can now engage in unlimited secret spending to elect or defeat candidates. This is unacceptable in a representative system and unacceptable in a major presidential election year.
Voters deserve and need to know the sources of funding for election advertising so they can make informed decisions. Secret campaign money has no place in America’s democracy simply because it undermines the role of the voter and corrupts the election process.
Voters have a right to know — whether it is a corporation, union, trade association or nonprofit advocacy group making unlimited political expenditures and influencing elections.
Making its way through Congress right now is the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2012. It is carefully crafted to require disclosure by outside groups of large campaign contributions and expenditures — those over $10,000 — and includes valuable “stand-by-your ad” provisions for ads run by such groups.
It requires outside groups to certify that their spending is not coordinated with candidates and — very important — covers transfers of money among groups so that the actual sources of funds being spent to influence federal elections will be known. Most important, it would give voters the information they need to judge for themselves about the advertising and the candidates.
We call on our two Florida senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, to let the sunshine in. Fair and clean elections, determined by the votes of informed American citizens, should be at the center of our democracy.
The League of Women Voters of Florida believes Americans deserve all the information they can get before they vote. Will our U.S. senators vote so that everyday citizens can see where the money is coming from? Our democracy demands it.
Deirdre Macnab is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida.