When the hyper-partisan, hyper-activist majority of the U.S. Supreme Court decided this week to invalidate summarily Montana’s 100-year-old campaign finance law which had restricted corporate spending, “James Bopp, the lead attorney arguing against Montana’s law, boasted to Mother Jones that the Supreme Court ruling was ‘a pretty dramatic door-slamming’ on the notion justices might have any second thoughts on the matter.” Even Justice Stephen Breyer, in his powerful dissent, noted that "it would be a waste of time to listen to arguments on the case after Citizens United, given the conservative majority’s clear opinion…” When it comes to the U.S. Supreme Court, this issue is done, done and done. (One good reason why this presidential election is so important.)
So who’s going to help us now? Let’s start with the “two-thirds supermajority votes in each house of Congress to propose and three-fourths of state legislatures to approve” a constitutional amendment. Great idea. Not happening.
More likely is tackling the transparency issue on which reasonable people from both parties might agree (even though both the Federal Election Commission and the IRS appear deadlocked over the issue). Congress has a bill called the DISCLOSE Act, but even in its stripped down form, it's going nowhere - so far. (One good reason why upcoming congressional elections are so important.) Writes TPM, “Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who joined with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in backing Montana’s anti-corruption law, said the ruling should spur Congress to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would require greater transparency for big money donors. It was filibustered by Republicans in the Senate in 2010.”
Why it’s going nowhere - no surprise - is the heavy lobbying against it by the nation’s largest lobby group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who says “disclosure would ‘silence free speech.’” Yeah, well, we’ll see about that now that another state Attorney General is once again coming to the public’s rescue in the face of enormous corporate power (as they often do).
According to the New York Times, New York’s Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman has now “begun investigating contributions to tax-exempt groups that are heavily involved in political campaigns, focusing on a case involving the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been one of the largest outside groups seeking to influence recent elections but is not required to disclose its donors.” Writes the New York Times,
Mr. Schneiderman issued a wide-ranging subpoena on Tuesday to executives at a foundation affiliated with the chamber, seeking e-mails, bank records and other documents to determine whether the foundation illegally funneled $18 million to the chamber for political and lobbying activities, according to people with knowledge of the investigation. …
While the chamber claims roughly 300,000 members, its political and lobbying activities are largely financed by a much smaller group of corporations, which can donate unlimited amounts to the chamber for issue ads against candidates without having to disclose the contributions publicly. During 2008, close to half of the chamber’s $140 million in contributions came from just 45 donors, often coinciding with lobbying or political campaigns of concern to the companies giving the money.
Go AG Schneiderman. Hey, it's something!