Improve campaign disclosure before next big election

Six billion dollars.

That’s how much money campaigns and their supporters are expected to spend on the 2012 elections, according to the latest estimate by the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s a huge and stunning amount that’s only likely to increase in future elections. So voters at least deserve to know where all the big money is coming from.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that money is essentially speech that must be allowed. But the same court has encouraged Congress to require more disclosure of the donors who are doing the speaking.

Money that goes directly to the candidates is already tracked. But money spent by outside groups that mostly attack political opponents is harder to identify. This includes groups such as Americans for Prosperity on the right and the Greater Wisconsin Committee on the left.

Congress should require these shadowy organizations to disclose all of their donors who give $10,000 or more. That won’t take the money out of politics. But it will give citizens more information about who is trying to influence their votes. And it will hold accountable more of these groups for what often are terribly misleading if not flat-out wrong claims and accusations.

The race for president, of course, is the biggest-spending affair, accounting for about $2.6 billion of the projected $6 billion for federal campaigns this cycle, according to the CRP. ...

Bills requiring more transparency (60 days before elections) at the federal and state levels enjoy bipartisan support.

Let’s get this done in time for the next big splurge.

— Wisconsin State Journal, Madison,

Nov. 1

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