04 June 2010


So let's talk about Citizens United and the DISCLOSE Act.

Citizens United was a Supreme Court case of this past year. The surprising decision "ruled that corporations and unions may now directly and expressly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates for federal office," as summarized by OMBWatch. Obviously, this was a pretty big change. Previously, there were all kinds of hurdles and safeguards that stopped direct advocacy - although frequently it just necessitated channeling money into shadow groups. But now... well, as one example, BP could just plain run advertisements on behalf of a candidate who promised them he'd kill any attempt to raise the liability limit for oil spills. BP could buy a candidate almost outright.

This will have some secondary effects. Politics points to increasingly aggressive and pricey ad buys as the private market rolls up its sleeves and starts picking up candidates.
An increase in premium television buys could have a twofold impact. First, the price of television ads could go up; candidates will have to opt for higher ad rates in order to keep their spots from getting bumped by third party group ads. Candidates would also be at a disadvantage because wealthy third party groups could lock in their ad buys early, before a candidate has raised the money to cover his or her media plan. The main beneficiaries should be the stations, which will be able to fetch higher ad rates.

Naturally, a lot of people were pissed off at the decision. It was consistent, since in many other ways corporations were treated as people, but it still seemed outrageous to conclude that they must then have unrestricted First Amendment rights to free speech. And in its wake, legislation has sprung up to curtail the power of private companies. They already have a leather-lunged voice, after all, so might not be good to allow them to just run things outright.

The result is the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections Act, or the DISCLOSE Act. Yes, it is absolutely vital that a contentious bill in these times have an Orwellian name that is also a summary. But the bill is actually decent. It prohibits undisclosed electioneering (donations, push-polling, etc.) by big contractors of the government, TARP recipients, and foreign companies; it requires a report from anyone who spends more than $10,000 on electioneering; and a few other things along those lines. Russ Feingold, America's Most Awesome Senator, is sponsoring it. The President is advocating it.

Of course, some people oppose it. Unsurprisingly, the Chamber of Commerce feels that unions should be especially penalized with lower reporting thresholds, rather than treated the same as corporations. Yeah, fuck those unions. We all saw how the SEIU rammed through that health-care reform in a record-breaking 25 years. Damn liberal unions and their breakneck quarter-century legislation rate.

The Chamber also points out that the bill "certain provisions, such as the limits on foreign-owned corporations, effectively would not apply to organized labor."

Yes. We must stop all those foreign unions assaulting our virgin shores.

Remember that when you oppose something, you fight labeling war with its advocates. The bill isn't just a bad bill, it's an "anti-speech" bill that's being "rammed" through and will stop groups from "effectively communicating, like National Right to Life says.

Give me a break. Let's pass this bill, so we can find out who is being bought and by whom.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with this : 'so we can find out who is being bought and by whom.' I don't care that BP spends money on a candidate, I just want to know who they've bought and how much they paid. Though, your comments on it raising ad prices are valid, and open an interesting angle.