Earlier this week, the Huffington Post’s Peter Stone, along with Politico, reported on coordinated efforts by a cabal of outside money groups to spend upwards of $1 billion this year to oust President Obama and congressional Democrats. The money — organized by Karl Rove, the Koch brother’s network of billionaires, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s corporate coffers — will be spent largely using undisclosed fronts. But only a day after the news broke, Jeb Bush threw cold water on idea, and called for an overhaul of the campaign finance system to address the loopholes exploited by these groups.
Appearing before a House Budget Committee panel, Bush responded to a question by Congressman John Yarmouth (D-KY), who asked the former governor to reflect on the campaign finance system that has allowed special interests and lobbyists to manipulate the political process. Without missing a beat, Bush explained that he would get rid of the outside spending groups and that the law should require full transparency of campaign donors:
BUSH: In a perfect world, we could have a different financing system. I love the idea of having campaigns be funded directly, rather than indirectly. And have no limits and total transparency so if people were offended by a large donor, the candidate, he or she, would have to accept responsibility for the message and the for the amount of money and who gave it. That would be, for me, talking about markets, rather than government control kind of response, that would be a better approach. [...] I would suggest Congress should show more self-restraint about allowing that influence to change policy if that’s the view.
Bush did not mention any groups by name — but his call for reform was a clear swipe towards the secret money efforts by outside groups like the Koch brothers, Rove, and the Chamber (Yarmouth did mention, moments later, the $400 million in secret cash pledged by the Koch network to defeat Obama). While Bush’s call for unlimited contributions would not be ideal in terms of curbing corruption, his idea of shutting off outside spending groups and making all donors completely transparent is a step in the right direction.
Many experts agree that the very reason groups like the Chamber or Rove’s network are able to raise such vast sums is because they can do so without disclosure. Since corporate interests do not have to take responsibility for the messages they promote in the attack ads, they are more willing to write big checks. Bush’s call for disclosure would not only mean greater accountability, it would likely slow reverse some of the corrupting influence of Citizens United.
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Filed under: Reforming the System