The calls I have received from reporters of late have been concentrated on two subjects: the looming disclosure of super PAC donors and the status of the “do-nothing 112th Congress.”
I will soon tackle the realities behind Congress’ activity and outputs, or lack thereof, in the 112th, which have contributed significantly to the abysmal approval rating Congress has been enduring for the past year-plus.
It is good that we will have some disclosure of the mega-donors to the spate of super PACs that have dominated the landscape and the airtime across the presidential primaries and caucuses so far — but it is ridiculous that reporting requirements are so lame that the first disclosure in six months will not come until after voters in Florida have made their perhaps pivotal choice in the Sunshine State’s Republican presidential primary.
And even then, the disclosure will cover only the period to Dec. 31 — meaning it will miss the key infusion of cash before New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. And then we will go back into disclosure hibernation through the rest of the key primary season.
But that is at least an area of campaign activity that requires some kind of disclosure, however woeful. Then we have the ruse being used by groups such as American Crossroads GPS — manipulating the tax code knowing that a feckless IRS won’t even enforce its own regulations, to create 501(c)(4) organizations that do not have to disclose any of their donors because they claim that political activities make up only a fraction of their overall work (LOL). And we have the ability of major corporations to hide their campaign donations by using the cloak of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
After Citizens United, Congress moved to try to close some of the gaps with the DISCLOSE Act, introduced in the House by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). The bill passed the House on a near-party-line vote in 2010 and died in the Senate on the shoals of a filibuster.
All 59 Democrats voted for cloture, meaning the bill to provide meaningful disclosure would have made it through with the support of one of the 41 Republicans — a group that, of course, included Sen. John McCain, co-author of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act known as McCain-Feingold that was upended by Citizens United, and Sen. Olympia Snowe, co-author of the key feature of McCain-Feingold that was especially singled out by the Supreme Court in Citizens United.
Shamefully, not a single one of the Republicans, including many others who had long supported disclosure, voted for the bill, and we are now reaping the whirlwind.
One reporter who did not call me about this issue was CNN’s Erin Burnett, who anchored a show on Jan. 27 that shows why so many observers of our politics are frustrated with the inadequacies and myopia of so much of the mainstream media who practice what journalist James Fallows calls “false equivalence.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.