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.

Watch it:

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.

Even Mitt Romney has gone on record calling for greater campaign disclosure. But his allies are moving forward, using secret fronts and dummy corporations to hide political cash.

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.

RELATED: Flashback Video: Joe Lieberman In 2000 Called Secret Campaign Cash “Indefensible,” Now Pushes Bill To Keep Political Money Secret

RELATED: Koch Operative Steered $55 Million To Front Groups Airing Ads Against Democrats; Ads Assailed Candidates Over Abortion, 9/11, Medicare

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Filed under: Reforming the System

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  • Preston Law

    Oh my god! I didn’t think the Bushes could advocate anything like this at all! And this wouldn’t even require the repeal of Citizens United to fix campaign financing!

  • MariaEC

    Jeb Bush said that? I’m so completely paranoid at this point that every time a well known republican opens his mouth and goes against the flow of the other ones I assume there’s some sort of cabal going on under the surface. I’m trying to figure out why old Jeb, enabler of the biggest campaign fraud in history, would suddenly get a conscience and propose to alter a system that benefits the republicans far more than the Democrats. Is this the GOP’s idea to make them look like they were suddenly and actually in touch with what the majority of Americans want? He’s still off the mark though. There needs to be set limits to contributions or we still empower billionaires to buy and sell the presidency. On an off topic note, Jeb is looking more and more like the Koch brothers from a different mother.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Lunn/637813505 Alan Lunn

    We have just seen the mass exodus of corporations and billionaires from ALEC in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case. When people know where the money is coming from, they may stop buying from those companies. For instance, we should all stop buying Brawny towels (Koch). Transparency would mean many billionaires and companies would think twice about their dirty deeds. They also may be about to get burned for this secrecy and the clandestine way they are trying to buy our government and fill Congress with shills. Another thing is that the Bush politicians aren’t really of the Tea Party ilk. The Koch brothers are extremists. They are becoming too powerful and too crazy. I don’t think any Bush wants to see John Birch Society America. Maybe the Bush family sees the writing on the wall with this new extreme right-wing madness.

  • CatKinNY

    Jeb always was the smart, competant one – the one Poppy and Babs expected to be president. He’s also, as Alan noted, an old fashioned moderate Republican, and the Tea Party and the Evangelicals scare the crap out of him. He’s watched them join forces to drive women and hispanics running into the arms of the Democrats, and he knows how that will end in the long run for the GOP. While all this dark money may let them prevail for another few election cycles, their base is getting smaller, older and more radical, and Jeb knows that crazy won’t sell forever. I watched a followup piece on ’60 Minutes’ this evening on a murder in California which they covered last year. The victim was a plumber in his 30’s who’s business had been wiped out by the collapse of the housing bubble; with time on his hands, he’d turned into a leader of a neo Nazi Party. The killer was his 10 year old son. The dead Nazi’s mother, who had attended some of his meetings and saw them as nice family barbecues with eccentric decorations, is now raising the remaining children. Lesley Stahl asked her if she was teaching those kids neo Nazi politics. The woman replied “Oh, no, I’m raising them to be conservative Republicans.” The more the Republicans come out of the closet about what they are really trying to do (and they are getting bolder), the more the selfish pricks who don’t pay attention but know they don’t like paying taxes will start to say WTF?

    I’m hoping that Paul Ryan’s “marvelous” budget gets a lot of attention this summer. If the white, middle class voters who normally vote Republican can be made to understand that it’s going to increase the budget defecit while slashing assistance for everyone in order to give more tax cuts to the wealthiest, some of them will pause and think. But if they can be made to understand that it’s going to take traditional medicare and turn it into a voucher program that will make their octeganarian parents have to navigate the private insurance market, they will all run screaming from the GOP, and it’ll be their selfishness that’ll make them do it. It’s a batshit crazy idea that will simply transfer more money to private business and will leave every non wealthy American family poorer. They’ll choose themselves over the”job creators” every time, as long as they can see it.

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