Burnett started her piece on super PACs and disclosure by saying of the lack of disclosure overall, “This is a situation where what you’re seeing is each side not wanting to disclose and saying, ‘Well the other side isn’t going to disclose so I’m not going to disclose, instead of everyone shaking hands and saying we should all disclose. It’s good for America.’ Like we said, Democratic and Republican bipartisan loophole action, at least something is bipartisan these days.”
She then turned to Dave Levinthal of Politico, who said, “Well, of course, the Democrats want to blame the Republicans and the Republicans want to blame the Democrats, but you’re right. This is not exclusive to any one party, and is this going to change? Well, Congress tried to change it back in 2010. They tried to pass a piece of legislation called the DISCLOSE Act. Well, it went nowhere.”
Both parties have plenty of actors and allies willing to exploit the laws and loopholes in the campaign finance system. But contrary to Burnett, Levinthal and CNN, the lack of disclosure is the fault of one party; a failure to give accurate information to Americans to hold the politicians appropriately accountable makes CNN at least an unindicted co-conspirator.
A revised and streamlined version of the DISCLOSE Act will reappear this year. We might also see action by the White House on a proposed executive order applying to companies that do business with the federal government the same standards of disclosure to the new wave of corporate and union contributions to independent political activities as exists for direct campaign contributions.
Unless reporters do their job and tell the truth about who really walks the walk on trying to reform the secrecy regime in campaign finance and who abandoned the pretense of supporting disclosure to protect the big donors, the sorry status quo will almost certainly prevail.
Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.