I appreciate my good friend and neighbor Rich Lowry’s close reading of my recent piece on campaign-finance reform. I admire Rich so much, I’m surprised he didn’t read more closely.
I do not “pooh pooh” Kentucky Republican senator Mitch McConnell’s desire for full disclosure of campaign donations as “risible.” I am all for disclosure. Who isn’t? What I do resent is the false dichotomy that McConnell and his allies present between today’s system — supposedly one hidden in shadows when it isn’t blurred beyond recognition — and their nirvana: a land where contributions to parties and politicians will be revealed for all to see.
McConnell and company pretend to be reformers by advocating the status quo. The fact is that we ALREADY have disclosure, and lots of it.
OpenSecrets.org will allow you to look up, in astonishing detail, who gave how much to which candidates and parties at the federal level, going all the way back to 1990. This is a delightful tool for journalists and concerned citizens. I used this database and another (tray.com/fecinfo) just last week to look up the political donations of media maven Michael Bloomberg who is considering a bid for the Republican mayoral nomination in New York City. It turns out that Bloomberg’s $337,000 in political gifts between 1990 and 2000 — all disclosed on the Internet — went 91.5 percent to Democrats. Some Republican.
Disclosure can be sped up, for sure. But when Mitch McConnell says all we need is disclosure, he might as well say that America would be a terrific place, if it only had a Senate.
As for Rich’s other critiques, I merely would reiterate that I would prefer to see citizens, industries, companies, unions, and the like spend their money in politics by telling all of us why Jack Jones should be elected or defeated rather than lining Jones’ pockets or those of his party with donations — essentially private downpayments for future public favors.
Ask yourself this question: If those same groups handed candidate Jones fat bags of cash in an alley rather than certified checks at a fundraising banquet, wouldn’t you call the police? And the substantive difference between these two scenarios is…???