Let the sunshine in...
Amid the National Security Agency's high-tech collection of the world's cellphone data and the CIA's alleged spying on the United States Senate, the government somehow can't muster the technical wherewithal to quickly post congressional candidates' campaign contributions online.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, staunchly has defended the NSA's data collection but bristled this week when revealing that the CIA allegedly had hacked the committee staff's computers. Her "transparency for thee but not for me" theme carries over to other aspects of the government, including campaign contributions.
Federal candidates are required to file campaign finance reports listing information about donors and amounts, but only by a series of deadlines during a two-year election cycle.
A series of developments makes rapid and comprehensive disclosure more important than ever. The Citizens United decision in 2010 allowed donations by corporations and other entities that can funnel large amounts of money to campaigns late in the game, thus evading disclosure until after an election. And the Supreme Court soon will announce its decision in a case known as McCutcheon, which could result in the lifting of all caps on campaign contributions.
There is a two-year limit of $123,200 on individual contributions to federal candidates and political committees combined. An individual may contribute no more than $48,600 to candidates and no more than $74,600 to all PACs and parties.
If those caps are lifted, wealthy individuals could pour millions of dollars into elections.
It's important for voters to know who is funding campaigns, before elections. Congress should require donations to be posted online within a day of their receipt by a candidate or committee.
This is Sunshine Week. Lawmakers should take a break from fundraising to ensure that voters know which special interests are fueling congressional and presidential campaigns.