One person ≠ one vote

King shines spotlight on dark money in politics
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  May 8, 2014

feat_AngusKing_main 

Maine's Independent senator Angus King is taking on dark money.

The system of rules that govern the flow of money in US politics is crumbling, “dark money” is gushing in through the cracks, and Maine’s Independent senator Angus King is among those pushing for reform.  

Last week, he chaired the Senate Rules Committee hearing, “Dollars and Sense: How Undisclosed Money and Post-McCutcheon Campaign Finance Will Affect the 2014 Election and Beyond,” at which former US Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, who served on the court from 1975-2010 and authored the dissenting opinion in Citizens United, testified — a rare, if not unheard of, move for a retired justice.

“What has occurred in the past five years represents revolutionary, not evolutionary, change in the way the financing of political campaigns has been regulated in this country...changes that threaten to undermine a fundamental principle of American democracy: one person, one vote,” King said in his opening statement at the hearing.

In his statement and in an interview with the Phoenix, King highlighted a recent report by the Weslyan Media Project and the Center for Responsive Politics that analyzed political ad airings from January 1, 2013 to April 24, 2014. In addition to showing that interest group spending on US Senate and House races is on the rise, the report shows that “dark money” — spending by groups that are not required to disclose their donors — comprises a majority of the interest group ads on the air.

“I have a sense of urgency about this,” King says. “It’s getting to the point where what the candidates raise and spend is almost irrelevant.” (Of the $11 million spent in the 2012 US Senate race that King won, $7.4 million — more than two-thirds — was spent by outside groups, many of which do not disclose their donors. King raised $2.9 million to Charlie Summers’ $1.2 million and Cynthia Dill’s $184,000.)

THERE'S A BIG PROBLEM

King talks about the “three pillars” of the campaign finance regulatory system: sources of money, limits on giving, and disclosure. All three pillars, he fears, are crumbling.  

While it’s still illegal for corporations and unions to give money directly to candidates for federal office, the 2010 Citizens United decision threw out the ban on companies, unions, and associations spending money on political ads and paved the way for the creation of so-called “super-PACs,” which accept unlimited donations and use that money to influence elections. By ruling this way, the Supreme Court (in a 5-4 decision) limited our ability to regulate the sources of money — who can give.

And while there remain —  for now — limits on how much a person can give to an individual campaign or candidate, last month’s McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission decision abolished “aggregate limits” on how much someone can give to several different campaigns or committees. It was a major blow to the second pillar, limits on giving.

In both cases, the court suggested that transparency — disclosure of who is giving what — minimize the potential for corruption.

1  |  2  |  3  |   next >
| More


Most Popular
ARTICLES BY DEIRDRE FULTON
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   BLUESTOCKING FILM SERIES SHOWCASES WOMEN'S STORIES  |  July 16, 2014
    Among last year’s 100 top-grossing films, women represented just 15 percent of protagonists, and less than one-third of total characters.
  •   CHECKING IN: THE NEW GUARD AND THE WRITER'S HOTEL  |  July 11, 2014
    Former Mainer Shanna McNair started The New Guard, an independent, multi-genre literary review, in order to exalt the writer, no matter if that writer was well-established or just starting out.
  •   NO TAR SANDS  |  July 10, 2014
    “People’s feelings are clear...they don’t want to be known as the tar sands capitol of the United States."
  •   YOUR GUIDE TO ALL THINGS PRIDE!  |  June 19, 2014
    From the outset, O’Connor says, they were “foward-focused” — they had to be, given that they were basically starting from scratch — and committed to being as inclusive, positive, accessible, and transparent as possible.
  •   A RUBY CELEBRATION  |  June 18, 2014
    Hundreds of people — “a who’s who of gay liberation” at the time — came to the first-ever Maine Gay Symposium in April 1974.

 See all articles by: DEIRDRE FULTON