This has not been a good year for the Democrats. With a lingering recession and high unemployment, out-of-control federal spending, exploding deficits on both the federal and state level, uncertainty over the war in Afghanistan, and government bungling of its role in the Gulf oil spill, it’s no wonder that disapproval of the job Congress and President Barack Obama have been doing is so high.
This has not been a good year for the Democrats.
With a lingering recession and high unemployment, out-of-control federal spending, exploding deficits on both the federal and state level, uncertainty over the war in Afghanistan, and government bungling of its role in the Gulf oil spill, it’s no wonder that disapproval of the job Congress and President Barack Obama have been doing is so high.
It hasn’t helped that almost the lone victory of the Democrats this year is proving to be a Pyrrhic one: the use of cynical political deals and parliamentary tricks to achieve the passage of ObamaCare despite strong opposition from the voting public — opposition that has if anything only grown stronger as people have found out just how many rotten eggs were hidden inside the health care reform bill. (So much for, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” Mrs. Pelosi.)
And now, looming just over the horizon are the November midterm elections, when everyone expects the Democrats to take a good drubbing at the polls.
Small wonder that the House of Representatives passed the so-called DISCLOSE Act last Thursday. Under this act, corporations and non-profit groups (including most political advocacy organizations) would have to reveal the names of their top five donors on any political advertising. Businesses that received bailout money or have more than $7 million in government contracts also would have their political speech rights curtailed.
The ostensible reason for the “Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections” Act is to mitigate the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision, which had overturned a key provision of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions.
I don’t expect many Democrats to “disclose” their real motives in crafting and supporting this bill, but all you need is a little experience watching politicians, and to take a look at the provisions of the DISCLOSE Act, and you’ll be able to tell that the real purpose of this bill is to mitigate the electoral losses that the Democrats will probably suffer this fall.
Like Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) said on the House floor in arguing for passage of DISCLOSE: unless this act passes, “we’ll see more Republicans getting elected.”
It’s laudable to try to end or at least limit the undue influence of monied interests in our political process. If that’s what DISCLOSE was really about, we should be contacting our senators to urge them to vote for it.
But DISCLOSE only takes aim at the political speech rights of certain special interests — not coincidentally, interests that tend to support the Republicans.
In contrast, interests that favor the Democrats, such as labor unions, get a free pass. A few political action groups, such as the National Rifle Association, were savvy enough to carve out exceptions for themselves. Most other political advocacy corporations would be out of luck.
This bill isn’t about ending political corruption. It’s about securing partisan advantage for the ruling party in Washington, D.C.
In fact, as many others have quipped, DISCLOSE is a jobs bill: a new “stimulus” package aimed at saving jobs — first, the jobs of elected Democrats, and second, the jobs of incumbents.
DISCLOSE gives off such an aura of political cynicism that it passed the House by a vote of only 219-206, with 36 Democrats defecting to vote against it, and only two Republicans voting for it.
Thankfully, it has rather slim prospects for passage in the Senate, where even liberals like Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) are opposed. Republican senators can expect to be joined by moderate and liberal senators in a filibuster.
I hope it is filibustered. “To do any type of campaign finance reform before an election cycle to gain some type of strategic advantage is inappropriate,” said Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass).
If anything, that’s an understatement. It’s not just “inappropriate.” It’s immoral.
Jared Olar may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.