October 31, 2010 in City

Forcing transparency of PACs would be sound step forward

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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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?

Who’s rich?

The Washington Poll, which is discussed in greater detail elsewhere in today’s paper, had a question that says a lot about all of us. When 500 voters were asked how they define “rich,” they had a wide range of answers.

For 3 percent, rich could be less than $100,000.

For 16 percent, it was $100,000 to $199,999.

For 22 percent, it was $200,000 to $299,999.

For 10 percent it was $300,000 to $499,999.

For 23 percent it was $500,000 to $1 million.

For 15 percent it was more than $1 million.

The rest either didn’t know, or wouldn’t answer.

Professor Matt Barreto of the University of Washington said rich is a relative concept. People rarely consider themselves rich and often feel strapped regardless of their income because expenses rise to meet (or exceed) income. It’s almost always someone else who makes more than they do.

So if you were asked, what would you say should be considered “rich”?

Turnout prediction

The secretary of state’s office is sticking with its projection of turnout for Tuesday’s election in the 66 percent region. It would be the highest for a midterm election since 1970. Ten counties are even reporting “very heavy” turnout, they said Friday. No county is reporting light turnout.

Happy Halloween. Now go take down your signs

Election Day is as close to Halloween this year as it ever gets. There are always a fair number of pranks played on Halloween, and campaign yard signs make really tempting targets.

If you want to keep them for Tuesday, you should bring them in for tonight. Don’t even think of calling to complain about how your signs got stolen or vandalized if you leave them up tonight. Take ’em down, and put ’em back up Monday.

Spin Control also appears online with daily items, reader comments and videos at spokesman.com/ blogs/spincontrol.


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