Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Disclosure Sounds So Good

Americans overwhelmingly oppose the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and believe there is too much money in politics.     It was only a matter of time, then, till Republicans began to develop a talking point in their effort to protect big money's influence in elections.

On December 21, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney contended "we'd be a lot wiser to say you can give what you'd like to a campaign.     They must report it immediately...." Former GOP presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty argued on on January 21 "The better position is to allow full and free speech in whatever form, but have instant disclosure."     Six days later, Fred Malek, ex-president of Marriott Corporation and of Northwest Airlines and national finance committee co-chairperson of the McCain 2008 presidential campaign, similarly stated "I would favor unlimited contributions to candidates with full disclosure."    

Noting "a certain level of message coordination," CAP's Francis Keyes finds nevertheless "the GOP’s actions betray any suggestion that they actually stand behind transparency." One wonders where these guys were last September, when every Democrat in the United States Senate voted to end, and every Republican voted to continue, the GOP filibuster of the DISCLOSE Act   

A bill to amend the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 to prohibit foreign influence in Federal elections, to prohibit government contractors from making expenditures with respect to such elections, and to establish additional disclosure requirements with respect to spending in such elections, and for other purposes.

Critics of the Citizens United decision had argued that the Court paved the way for foreign entities to influence elections in the U.S.A.     When Republicans killed Democratic efforts to impose cloture on the DISCLOSE Act, the GOP struck a blow in favor of foreign influence- and against disclosure of campaign contributions.

Disclosure and its offspring, transparency, are not panaceas, of course.      The $10 million contributed to Newt Gingrich's SuperPac by Sheldon Adelson and his wife is public knowledge.     Yet, most people are not aware of fierce Adelson's advocacy of far-right Mideast views and- far more ominously- fewer still know of his aggressive anti-union tactics in his casino business and alleged connection to Chinese organized crime.

Nevertheless, transparency does have its benefits.      Politico reported this morning

Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Josh Fox was arrested Wednesday morning after attempting to film a House Science Committee hearing on hydraulic fracturing.

Fox was led out in handcuffs by the Capitol police shortly after 10 a.m., before the hearing could be gaveled into order. The "Gasland" director was attempting to film the hearing looking into EPA's investigation of potential water contamination from natural gas drilling in Pavillion, Wyo.

I'm within my First Amendment rights, and I'm being taken out," Fox shouted as he was led away.

Fox has been charged with unlawful entry, according to Capitol police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

Fox is working on a sequel to his Oscar-nominated "Gasland."

An ABC news crew was also turned away from the hearing. The committee chairman has the discretion on whether to allow uncredentialed members of the media to film hearings, according to a democratic staffer.

The committee recessed after Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) called a motion to suspend the committee rules and allow for Fox and the ABC crew to film the hearing.

It's not likely that expulsion of Fox is a First Amendment issue, though no more a constitutional lawyer than subcommittee chairman Andy Harris, I am uncertain.     But it is even less evocative of disclosure, transparency, or openness, though the fossil fuel industry was no doubt pleased.       Meanwhile, in light of their devotion to the values of free speech and disclosure, we await expressions of outrage from the likes of Pawlenty, Romney, and Malek. 

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