November 3, 2010

It’s official, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Outside groups have spent almost $300 million to influence elections this cycle, more than all the midterm elections combined since 1990. We can thank the corporate-smitten John Roberts court for that in large part, but let’s not forget the spineless politicians who for years have failed to enact real comprehensive campaign finance reform. It really isn’t much of a secret why they keep failing to step up to the plate: “The people in the position to make these rules have succeeded in the system as it exists … asking them to change the rules from which they’ve benefited is difficult.” That was retiring Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) in a candid moment.

But what is a secret are the undisclosed donors funneling almost half of that $300 million in outside spending, said The Center for Responsive Politics. Yesterday voters were resoundingly disgusted with the barrage of television ads, mostly negative and extremely misleading, by shadowy outside groups. One would think this universal disgust would propel members of Congress to support greater transparency and disclosure laws. But given Senator’s Bayh’s on-the-money observation, anyone think that’s going to happen soon?

Oh and one other thing. Total price tag of this year’s election (combining outside spending with traditional party spending)? $4 billion.

The path is clear. The Senate must pass the DISCLOSE Act and get it to the President’s desk to sign into law. We’re pretty sure these corporate and shadowy outside groups have better things to spend $300 million on. But Congress should go further and pass the Fair Elections Now Act, bipartisan legislation that would allow federal candidates to run without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists. We’re curious though, do you think folks like Meg Whitman ($140 million of her own money in a failed gubernatorial bid), Jeff Greene ($20 million of his own money in a losing primary bid), and Linda McMahon ($50 million of her own money in a failed bid for U.S. Senate) are now supporters of the Fair Elections Now Act?