In a controversial ruling three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that there could be no limits on corporate and special-interest campaign contributions. But the high court also said that citizens have every right to know who is giving how much to whom, and encouraged states to pass full-disclosure laws.
That hasn’t happened in Michigan. It would be perfectly legal for someone in the state to form a committee called, say, “Friends of Mankind,” to take secret donations from terrorist groups, to spend that money smearing candidates with so-called issue ads, and never to say where the funding came from.
Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, the state’s chief elections officer and a conservative Republican, concluded there was something deeply wrong with this. Last week, she announced plans to issue a new rule that would require interest groups to disclose their donors.
That move deeply angered some Republican state lawmakers, who don’t want Michiganians to know who is bankrolling their campaigns. Senate Majority Floor Leader Arlan Meekhof amended a bill to prevent Ms. Johnson from requiring full disclosure. With indecent haste, he rammed it through the Senate, over the opposition of six of his fellow Republicans.
Asked whether he thought voters had a right to know who was paying for issue ads, Senator Meekhof sneered: “That’s your opinion.” His effort to sabotage the public’s right to know was enthusiastically backed by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R., Monroe) who falsely claimed it “codified what the Supreme Court has already said.” In fact, it did precisely the opposite.
The Michigan House should reject this profoundly anti-democratic bill, and Gov. Rick Snyder should announce he will veto it if it reaches his desk. Politics ought not to be controlled by secret men with slush funds, operating in the dark.
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