Last updated: July 28, 2010 - 8:48am
[Commentary] Free speech implies responsibility. The Supreme Court said earlier this year that corporations and unions have the First Amendment right to spend whatever they want on independent political ads, but many businesses don't want the responsibility that comes with that new right.
They want to make their unlimited donations anonymously so the public will not know who is flooding the airwaves. On Tuesday, the Republicans in the Senate voted to let them get away with it. The business community, led by the United States Chamber of Commerce, claimed the bill would "shred" the Constitution by imposing onerous restrictions on businesses. Republicans insisted on the Senate floor that the bill was blatantly designed to improve the chances of Democrats in the fall election, citing as one example a provision that allows donations of less than $600 to remain anonymous, while requiring disclosure of the rest. Corporations are more likely to make larger donations, they said, while union members and their smaller donations are protected from disclosure. Of course, one of the founding principles of campaign finance reform is to encourage large numbers of small donations from donors of all kinds, while reducing the influence of wealth. This is not an ideological proposition; it is fundamental to ensuring a fairer political process.
By blocking the bill on Tuesday, opponents made clear that their real problem was disclosure itself. They want the right to poison the political atmosphere without being held accountable for their speech. During the coming onslaught, Tuesday's vote will be worth remembering.
- Disclosure of 'issue ad' funding is on the wane
- Democrats push to stem corporate campaign money
- Corporate Donations and the SEC
- Making political advertising more transparent
- Congress must revamp campaign finance online reporting, watchdog says
- Supreme Court questions company campaign spending limits
- Behind the attack ads
- The real winners in the game of political donations
- A victory for independent speech
- Corporate campaign ads haven't followed Supreme Court's prediction
- Political Ad Funders Must Not Dodge Scrutiny
- Who Approved These Ads?
- The FCC Muzzle
- Democrats rush to curb corporate election spending before Nov. vote
- In Arguments on Corporate Speech, the Press Is a Problem