What a shame...truly a lost opportunity.
And it’s not just because the Democratic Party finally came up with a clever acronym that has wormed its way into the psyche of the body politic (C’mon guys! PPACA??!!? Really???), but because in this back-and-forth, tit-for-tat kindergarten game commonly known as the 112th Congress, this was one of the few mind-bogglingly important issues ever to come to the floor.
It was about whether you and I are allowed to know.
The DISCLOSE Act (less popularly known as The Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act), a bill with the focused intent of providing the public with transparency as it relates to campaign contributions, died the death of failed cloture last evening.
Cloture, a previously arcane Senate function, is now well-known, thanks largely to the inability of our elected officials to ever play nicely together. Simply put, cloture is meant to end the lollygagging and posturing, thereby allowing a bill to reach the floor. Cloture, however, needs 60 votes (3/5ths majority) to pass, and it just about never happens on anything important. (Technically, a filibuster is still possible once cloture passes and the bill comes to the floor, but that doesn’t generally occur.)
So all the present and voting Republicans—along with Harry Reid (what’s up with that?)—voted against cloture, thus preventing DISCLOSE from making it to the floor.
I’m sorry: I just don’t get it. Neither, apparently, does Senator Mitch McConnell, who makes a watery free-speech argument against DISCLOSE, one which even the Supreme Court disagrees with.
And, in what used to be irony and is now business as usual, an entire litany of conservatives had previously argued in favor of the transparency promoted by the DISCLOSE Act. These include Olympia Snowe (Whither goest thou, once proud Leader?), Susan Collins, Scott Brown and—wait for it—Mitch McConnell, who said back in 2010 that “We need to have real disclosure...why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?"
Okay, okay. Fine. We get it. Politics as usual. Republicans, currently the larger beneficiaries of the larger dark money, want things to stay as they are in the hopes that all those hidden donors will keep the money rolling in without threat of public embarrassment or repercussion. And the Democrats, famously in the majority for many, many, many years (over the years) are not above changing their minds when it suits their interests, either.
But here’s the rub: I said earlier that what this bill is really about is whether you and I are allowed to know, whether we’re going to allow our elected representatives to treat us like children or insist that they treat us like adults. Knowledge is the key here.
Consider the following:
North Carolina has introduced legislation making it illegal to measure sea level rises, as if not knowing the truth will somehow make us all safer and more secure.
In Connecticut, GMO-food labeling legislation failed in the face of threatened lawsuits by food producers.
In Texas, the GOP State Platform has come out against Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) a program specifically designed to teach young children how to think critically about the world around them
And now, on top of Citizens United and the recent SCOTUS ruling that overturned Montana’s 100-year-old law, we have the comatose DISCLOSE Act.
Yes, it’s about money in politics. But it’s bigger than that. It’s about whether we will allow our government to create a subservient and ignorant electorate.
And one final point, for those (like me) who love irony: the fight against sharing knowledge is being led by the Republican Party. Apparently they believe that they know what’s best for us, and will tell us just what they think is important for us to know, what they think we can understand. And isn’t that the worst kind of nanny state?
(Quick addendum: I've just been informed that Reid's "nay" vote is for procedural purposes, thereby answering my "What's up with that?" question from the above essay. Still seems a bit silly to me, but at least we know he doesn't need an exorcist or anything...--MC)
[And a programming note: If you're interested in discussing Money in Politics, join us tonight, Tuesday, July 17th at 8PM Eastern (5PM Pacific) on The Middle Ground on the CoffeePartyUSA Internet Radio Network with co-hosts Eric Byler and Michael Charney.]