Crossroads GPS and government transparency

Liberal-leaning pro-regulation groups blasted a conservative group, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, as hypocrites for launching a transparency project but protecting the privacy of its donors.

Democrats in Congress, reeling from critical ads Crossroads GPS ran in the 2010 campaign and during the current Congress, piled on. The DCCC launched a website, wikipocrisy.org, to highlight stories about Crossroads GPS declining to disclose their donors.

The criticism of Crossroads GPS misses a huge distinction. The group is calling for government disclosure, an essential tool to hold elected officials accountable. Crossroads’ critics, however, are calling for the government to force a private groups and citizens to reveal their associations, chilling political speech as government opponents and rival groups are empowered to retaliate.

Transparency should enable citizens to serve as watchdogs of government—not the other way around.

Slate’s David Weigel notes the reverse hypocrisy in Slate:

Can somebody explain to me why I’m supposed to be put off by American Crossroads GPS launching a wiki to collect FOIAs and public information about the Obama administration? Because this is not doing it:

“It is incredibly ironic that Crossroads wants to [talk] about openness when they are highly secretive,” said Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “I think the whole thing is a gimmick. It is ridiculous coming from Rove.”

You know who else wants to talk about openness? CREW, which doesn’t disclose its donors.

A top Democratic official joked that he “never knew Karl Rove was such a fan of F.O.I.A.’s., but we welcome his new-found interest in greater transparency. And given Crossroads and Mr. Rove’s new-found interest in transparency, we look forward to their taking this opportunity to disclose all Crossroads GPS donors, which to date they have kept secret.”

Wait, who is joking about Karl Rove’s interest in transparency? Because he or she did not allow the New York Times to say who he or she is.

The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.