Inside Opinion

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Tag: Citizens United

Oct.
28th

At least tell us who’s behind those big-money hits

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The first election campaign in the post-Citizens United era is nearing an end, and it won’t be quickly enough for most Americans.

They’ve been bombarded by billions of dollars worth of TV ads, most of them negative. That’s especially true in critical swing states. At least Washington residents can thank the fact that this state’s electoral votes for president are all but sewn up, sparing us the national ad onslaught plaguing battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Colorado.

Still, plenty of outside money – from the so-called super PACs, interest groups, unions, corporate donors and wealthy individuals – has poured into Washington to buy ads trying to influence statewide and congresssional races. How to tell which ones they are? Generally the tipoff is that they don’t end with a candidate saying, “I’m so-and-so, and I approved this message.”
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May
21st

Copper Kings make the case against Citizens United

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

It’s a legal long shot, but Montana’s attorney general is mounting a brave defense against the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision that unleashed super PACs on American democracy.

To their credit, 22 other state attorneys general – including Washington’s Rob McKenna – are backing Steve Bullock’s attempt to protect Montana from the Citizens United ruling.

Montana was once a poster boy for money-corrupted politics; its history shows how vulnerable states are to the unlimited corporate spending the Supreme Court allowed when it overturned key federal campaign finance restrictions in 2010.

More than 100 years ago, Montana politicians were bought, sold and openly traded by mine-owners known as the Copper Kings. The bribery and other corruption were more or less inevitable, given the ease with which a handful of plutocrats could have their way with an agrarian state.

Montana lawmakers finally reined in the power of Anaconda Copper and other corporate barons by enacting the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912, which sharply curtailed how much they could spend electing friendly officeholders.
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April
4th

Citizens United bodes ill for Washington’s judicial races

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

Washingtonians beware. The incentives to buy justice with campaign dollars are so great that it’s only a matter of time before the new super PACs come shopping for Supreme Court seats in Olympia.

The Washington Post reported last week that jurists in some states are preparing to defend themselves against unprecedented barrages of media attacks funded with unprecedented war chests. The stage was set in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which eradicated long-standing restrictions on campaign contributions from corporations and unions.

The decision provided for no firewalls between political and judicial elections. In states that insist on using popularity contests to pick their judges, the threat to an impartial judiciary is obvious. Read more »

Jan.
13th

Super PACs ratcheting up heat in 2012 campaign

This editorial appears in Friday’s print edition.

Mix unlimited campaign donations with the very weakest pinch of disclosure. Throw into an overheated primary season and what happens?

One need only look at all the attack ads in Iowa and New Hampshire paid for by the so-called super PACs supporting Republican candidates – groups with such names as Restore Our Future (Mitt Romney), Winning Our Future (Newt Gingrich) and the Revolution PAC (Ron Paul). Waiting in the wings: The already well-larded Priorities USA Action super PAC supporting President Barack Obama’s re-election and the prospect of super PACs trying to influence congressional races as well. Read more »

May
5th

Let the public follow the political money trail

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

We’d gladly trade any number of rules that try to micromanage campaign donations and spending in exchange for one thing: disclosure.

Full disclosure. That means telling the citizens exactly who is paying to buy the ads, mount the attacks and swing the election.

It means not merely naming political committees – which may be front organizations – but also naming the individuals who gave to those committees. It means doing this in real time, as the money shows up in campaign coffers, not letting political operatives keep voters in the dark until after the votes are counted.

Democracy presupposes an informed electorate, and the Internet can now make the electorate more informed than ever. That’s why the aggressive disclosure provisions in a new bill introduced last week by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., ought to be enacted in time for the 2010 election season.

The bill is part of a Democratic attempt to curb the effects of a January U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down longstanding limits on corporate campaign spending. Democrats fear that titans of industry will now pour fortunes into Republican candidacies; Schumer says that some CEOs won’t want the public and shareholders to see what would otherwise have been covert political operations.
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