The FEC has effectively dismantled much of our disclosure law as well. While nearly 100 percent of outside political groups disclosed the sources of funds used to pay for campaign ads in the 2004 and 2006 elections, the disclosure figure has since plummeted. Public Citizen found that of the 308 groups that reported spending money on electioneering communications or independent expenditures to influence the 2010 elections, only 166 (53.9 percent) provided any information about their funding sources.
Today’s loss of transparency of money in politics is largely due to a new, narrow interpretation by the Republican commissioners of who has to disclose what. In a recent statement, the commissioners opined that electioneering groups should only have to disclose those donors who earmark their money for a specific ad, aired in a specific race— which very few donors bother to do.
President Barack Obama has the means to fix the FEC. The president could — and should — follow his constitutional mandate to nominate commissioners of his own choosing who are diligent and professional, and then seek confirmation from the Senate. Obama has so far chosen instead to avoid the political fight that would result with McConnell.
But the 2012 elections are right around the corner. The spending spree of secretive corporate slush funds that we saw in 2010 was just a trial run. We cannot allow the FEC to continue shirking its responsibilities in the face of the unprecedented election spending. The credibility of the 2012 elections is at stake.
Craig Holman is the government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen.