Here’s a modest proposal on campaign finance reform that might meet constitutional muster with the U.S. Supreme Court: Let’s have a truth-in-labeling law that requires political committees to say what they really are up to.
Democrats got in trouble last week – potentially big enough trouble to void an election – while playing the old “hide the hit money behind nice-sounding PACs” game in a Snohomish County legislative race. They’re facing sanctions for deliberately not reporting the money and hiding the donors to a conservative state Senate candidate, all part of an effort to whipsaw a moderate incumbent Democrat the unions didn’t like.
Not reporting the donors on time could result in big fines. But the part of their scheme that’s annoying but perfectly legal is the regular practice of giving money to one nice-sounding PAC, then moving it into a second nice-sounding PAC, and concealing for a short time whom the money is coming from. Thus the commercials say this ad paid for by Very Concerned Citizens for Great Communities, funded by Concerned Citizens for Very Great Communities.
Or something like that. There are dozens of these shadow PACs, set up by Democrats and Republicans, every year. How about a law that says they must say what they really are, like Unions Trying to Defeat Sen. Schmoe or Businesses Against Rep. Snerd.
It would be so much easier for the voters to tell who’s spending the big bucks to sway their vote, and let them judge for themselves if those unions or businesses are really concerned citizens interested in great communities. And yes, I know that hiding things from the voters is the whole point of these PACs, but does freedom of speech include the right to be sneaky?