Transparency in campaign donations

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - One week ago today, the Michigan Senate passed a bill that protects the identities of those people who contribute large sums of money to fund those so-called 'issue ads' that flood the airwaves leading up to elections.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says it's another effort to let the wealthy and special interests funnel money secretly into the campaigns of the candidates of their choice.


To put a slightly harder edge on it, it's a bill that allows the wealthy and special interests to buy elections without having to reveal who they are.

We know that it's largely true that whoever spends the most money on a campaign will win it.

Not always--there are exceptions. But almost always.

If this bill, Senate 661, manages to slide through the house, it'll be the crowning glory for the forces of darkness.

After years of courtroom maneuvering, Republicans four years ago convinced the Supreme Court of the United States, in a decision cynically called Citizens United, to allow corporations and special interest organizations with lots of money to give as much of it as they want to political campaigns.

No limits.

That was under the guise that corporations are people, too, and that spending big money on politics is an exercise in free speech.

And now the Michigan State Senate says money as free speech ought to be reduced to backroom whispers; that donors don't have to reveal to you, to me, or to anybody, who they are or how much they give.

There's a term for it--dark money. Are they embarrassed? Are they fearful that it might become apparent that some politicians might get caught giving undue attention to one of those big donors?

I mean, who's going to get a political ear? Those of us who might throw a couple of hundred bucks to a candidate? Or those who toss in thousands, if not millions?

Who gets the attention?

We're not talking about the limited amount of money we give directly to a candidate.

That has to be limited and accounted for.

We're talking about money that goes to issue ads. Money spent on behalf of a candidate.

We're talking about money that is spent on ads that are inflammatory, smearing, misleading, and often inaccurate.

Ads that actually become central, if not dominant, in most campaigns. Ads over which the candidate shrugs and says he has no control.

At a time when we hear so much about the desire and need for more transparency, we instead get darkness and secrecy.

For the record, this new law was introduced in the Senate by the Majority Floor Leader, Arlan Meekhof of West Olive, just hours after Secretary of State Ruth Johnson announced that she intended to do the right thing--to require groups funding these "issue" ads to reveal who gave them the money.

He couldn't have that.

Right now, the bill is in a House committee where it will soon come up for a vote.

If it passes there we will have given up any hope for more transparency; for more accountability.

Only public pressure from those of us who don't want to turn things over to those who like to buy things will keep it from happening.

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.