Magical Thinking About Reform

by - April 16, 2015

Like any good magic show, misdirection is at the heart of Robert Bauer’s and Samuel Issacharoff’s op-ed, Keep Shining the Light on ‘Dark Money’, published in Politico on April 12th.  Directing the audience’s attention to the need for greater transparency of “dark money,” they talk about the need for “[r]eformed reporting requirements carefully drawn to bring into public view this spending while also addressing concerns about donor privacy and harassment.”  Then, right before our eyes, their reform resulting in greater transparency wondrously becomes a proposal to transform the current $200 threshold for reporting the identity of individuals who make political contributions into a threshold of $2,700 and to require reporting only during a narrow window sometime between 30 to 120 days before an election.  Since the maximum an individual can contribute to a federal candidate is $2,700, this proposal would magically make vanish the identity of every individual who contributes directly to a federal candidate and turn those contributions into a heretofore unseen animal: a large dark money contribution made directly to a federal candidate.  At the same time, contributions from party committees, leadership PACs and corporate and union PACs would not have to be disclosed unless the contributions exceeded $2,700 and were made right before an election. It would, indeed, be an impressive trick if one could make us believe that eliminating the reporting of the identities of individuals who make large contributions directly to candidates was a campaign finance reform that results in greater transparency.  But it is an illusion based on misdirection and the audience’s willingness to suspend disbelief, which, like all bad magic, falls apart on close inspection.

Magical Thinking About Reform | Campaign Legal Center

See this post for link to Bauer and Issacharoff's op-ed. 

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