Election donations need more disclosure

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Friday, June 10, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is among commentaries written by students in the Washington Seminar program at Janesville Parker High School. The seminar is for students in the advanced placement U.S. government course taught by Joe Van Rooy.

The 2010 Citizens United case determined that corporations have the same rights as citizens in regards to free speech. Though many disagree with the ruling, Bill Galston from the Brookings Institute reminds us that it is now the “law of the land” and unfortunately “free speech is not free.”

Effective political speech requires money, and this ruling gives an advantage to corporations over average citizens. Elections will soon be taken out of the control of the general public and given to corporate interests. To combat this trend, we should improve our system of campaign donor disclosures to empower average citizens.

Another way to fight this trend would be to implement a public matching funds system, which would match small private donations with federal money. This system would greatly improve the influence of citizens who donate small amounts of money and would allow their voices to be heard. While this system would cost taxpayers money in the short term, the reduction in required commitments to political action committees would surely offset the expenses.

Unfortunately, in this economic climate, public funding of elections has become a low priority.

Instead of working on a public funding system, we should instead focus on our disclosure system. Individuals deserve the right to know who donates large sums of money and therefore influences their politicians.

Corporations, unions and political action committees are able to circumvent the existing disclosure laws. Craig Holman, from the special-interest group Public Citizen, stated that there was only a “33 percent disclosure rate in the 2010 elections.”

Free speech is a fundamental right for Americans; however, we need to make sure that we value the voice of the individual, not just the unions, corporations and political action committees.

Campaign finance reform is necessary after the Citizens United Case.

Last updated: 5:41 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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