Free speech that will cost all of us

Free speech that will cost all of us

Transparency in government. That was probably the issue that helped Nikki Haley the most in winning the South Carolina Governor’s election last November.

Who could be against transparency? Who doesn’t want to make sure that government decisions are being made for the good of the taxpayers and not for the good of a deep-pocketed special interest? That is why we have campaign finance disclosure laws and require statements of economic interests for elected officials. It’s all about transparency. Who could be against it?

That would be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that is opposing a draft executive order that would shine sunlight on the big campaign donations of more than 50 of its members that have received over $44 BILLION in Federal contracts.

The public deserves to know that these corporations aren’t involved in pay-to-play politics. It’s our tax dollars being spent and we deserve to know.

But the U.S. Chamber calls the proposed requirement that Federal contractors disclose direct or indirect campaign contributions over $5000 a chilling effect on free speech. Using the U.S. Chamber’s convoluted logic, all transparency efforts in government should be eliminated because it infringes on free speech (the U.S. Chamber’s code words for big corporations being able to buy political influence to the detriment of the public and small businesses).

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision that allows corporations to make unlimited contributions to elect a politician either on their own or through a third party has made transparency even more important. But the U.S. Chamber is the beneficiary of these big campaign contributions so they are vigorously fighting back.

Tomorrow the House Committee on Small Business and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing on this issue. The title of the hearing tells which side the House majority is on—“Politicizing Procurement: Would President Obama’s Proposal Curb Free Speech and Hurt Small Businesses”.

Once again small business is being used as a front to protect big corporate greed and power.
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For the record on transparency:

“I think what we ought to do is we ought to have full disclosure, full disclosure of all of the money that we raise and how it is spent. And I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

– John Boehner, Meet the Press, Feb. 11, 2007, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17065119/print/1/displaymode/1098/

“Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”
– Mitch McConnell, Washington Post, May 13, 2010 (the quote is from “the last major fight over regulating money in politics”), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/12/AR2010051205094.html