Murkowski and the Myth of “Dark” Money

The tone of this piece on the Murkowski-Wyden Campaign Finance Disclosure Proposal (something we think may be the newest incarnation of the DISCLOSE Act) is rather admiring of Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) “apparent redirection on campaign disclosure” (she was part of last year’s abstention on the DISCLOSE Act). We do not share in the admiration.

Murkowski proved herself to be willing to go to great lengths to retain her position in the Senate with her write-in campaign after losing the 2010 primary to Republican opponent Joe Miller. The write-in campaign worked and retain her seat she did. It should come as little surprise that she would call for “reform” that, as we have noted in this space repeatedly, is little more than a call for incumbency protection for elected officials who can out their political opponents’ donors to intimidate them and discourage them from supporting the opposition.

We’re aware that the newest front, as this piece and many others, makes clear is the notion that, while non-profits are required to file disclosure reports with the Federal Election Commission (FEC), 501(c)(4)s have a less stringent disclosure requirement. From the Independent Voter Network piece:

The proposal is largely aimed at targeting and exposing the funders of non-profit advocacy groups, unions, and corporations that attempt to influence elections. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, over $200 million was spent on the 2012 election by like organizations in September and October of 2012 alone. Thus, avoiding existing disclosure regulations. Organizations that aren’t subject to current disclosure laws are many 501 (c)4 categorized non-profits, like Carl Rove’s Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

There are many good reasons to maintain the privacy of donors. We’ve written about it here and here. But if we’re going to talk about “dark” money and who benefits, let’s make sure that we cover our bases and point out how the Democrats have benefitted, and yes, even our newly reelected President. And then let us remember, after all players are introduced, why both sides maintaining some privacy may not be quite the tragedy and conspiracy Mother Jones et al think it is.

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