Georgia Voices: Political contributions restore transparency, accountability
by The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer
December 28, 2012 12:00 AM | 1240 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The election season is past and the holiday season is upon us, which is no doubt a relief for millions of Americans.

But once again we’re left with the unpleasant aftertaste of another campaign season in which it seems all too evident that the government we get is not so much the one we voted for as the one we (or somebody else) paid for.

The Supreme Court’s controversial “Citizens United” decision decreed that corporations and other private collective entities enjoy the constitutional rights of individual citizens to financially influence election outcomes. That ruling, depending on one’s perspective, is either an affirmation of the First Amendment as pertains to paid political advocacy or a further descent into oligarchy.

What is not arguable is that the price of even down-ballot campaigns, not to mention gubernatorial, congressional or presidential ones, continues to soar with each election cycle. The cost of running for office makes it ever more necessary for a candidate either to be independently wealthy or to raise huge sums of money from people and interests with their own agendas. The latter will sooner or later demand the political “access” they paid for.

Whatever one’s views on unlimited political slush-funding, it’s the rare citizen indeed who doesn’t at least want to know where all that money is coming from and who will be calling in the markers once the votes are counted.

Which brings us to more than $12 million in congressional campaign money filtered through two anonymous-sounding Tennessee companies formed in the final weeks of the campaign. The money ultimately went to candidates endorsed by the tea party super-PAC FreedomWorks. The attorney who registered the companies — with the innocuous names of Specialty Investments Group and Kingston Pike Development Corp. — said the nature of their business is “a family secret.” A couple of citizen watchdog groups say these companies were just fronts for purely political organizations, and should be subject to federal campaign finance disclosure laws.

Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, formerly of Common Cause, said nobody should be allowed to “launder huge, secret contributions through corporate shells into federal elections.” ...

This issue exposes huge holes in political accountability. If there’s a worthy mission for Congress, beyond resolving the budget deadlock, it’s closing these holes to restore some transparency and accountability to the political process. Who’s paying for whose campaigns should concern us at least as much with regard to the candidates we support as to those we oppose.
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