By Sasha Ryu
Now more than ever, money plays an instrumental role in shaping the nature of our country’s politics. With the aid of millions upon millions of dollars worth of anonymous donations to their campaigns, politicians are able to take on some of the most powerful positions in government. However, whether these politicians choose to disclose campaign funding information in full, in part, or not at all is completely within their power. Anti-transparency politicians like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argue these policies are purely for the sake of protecting citizens’ privacy, but to me, this logic seems completely absurd. At this point, it’s not about limiting donations, but simply having disclosure. After all, if there’s nothing to hide, then what’s the problem with being transparent?
According to a recent study conducted by a nonpartisan transparency organization known as the Center for Reserve Politics, the amount of fully disclosed funding in campaigns dropped from 72% in 2016 to 52% in 2018. This disturbing trend is thanks in large part to the 2010 landmark case known as Citizens United v. FEC, in which the Supreme Court ruled that restricting campaign donations made by corporations would be in violation of the First Amendment. The victory was made possible with the help of none other than Mitch McConnell, who assigned his personal lawyer to argue on his behalf during the legal proceedings. After spending nearly half a lifetime fighting against transparency in campaign funding, with the passing of Citizens United, McConnell’s dreams of granting big money unrestricted passage into the political system had finally come true.
Since Citizens United, there’s been an unprecedented amount of spending in politics, with the most prominent donors sometimes contributing tens, even hundreds, of millions of dollars anonymously. These donors could be nearly anyone: oil tycoons, Neo-Nazis, and even our rivals overseas, purposely sabotaging our country’s future. Whoever these donors are, one thing is for certain: due to a lack of accountability, outside spending and ‘dark money’ campaign contributions have surged since the ruling.
The country’s Federal Election Commission is currently the main group in charge of enforcing finance laws. The Republican and Democratic parties each pick three people to sit on the commission, meaning Senate Majority Leader McConnell selects half of the members on the FEC. McConnell’s three appointed members — the ones who are supposed to be in charge of punishing corrupt politicians — all have histories of anti-transparency. Essentially, even our country’s anti-corruption commission is corrupt.
To make matters worse, due to a lack of members, the FEC is currently unable to convene. Without a quorum, the FEC can’t make rules, conduct audits, or vote on investigations. This means the agency is effectively inactive at a time when it’s needed the most: during the 2020 presidential and congressional elections.
With people like McConnell dismantling the systems that are supposed to be holding people accountable, corruption is virtually inevitable. Allowing this blatantly immoral behavior to continue is absolutely unacceptable. At the end of the day, a government that keeps its people in the dark cannot call itself a true democracy. It’s time to put an end to nondisclosure.