Rep. Clarke Tucker took his bill to provide transparency on campaign spending to the House State Agencies committee today. Opposed by one of the biggest source of dark money spending in America, it failed on a voice vote.
His HB 1005 would require reporting of financial details on all “electioneering communications,” not just advertising that expressly advocates for or against a candidate. That “express advocacy” rule has opened the door to a tidal wave of political spending from anonymous sources that are clearly intended to influence votes, but, because they lack the magic words FOR and AGAINST, has been done in secret.
“We have a real issue of transparency in our democratic process,” Tucker said. He said it wouldn’t limit speech nor would it limit corporate speech in the form of money.
The bill has a $5,000 threshold for reporting.
David Ray, a paid employee of the financed Americans for Prosperity political organization, which spends hundreds of millions in dark money efforts, opposed the bill. He objected to reporting of names and addresses of people “simply because they choose to support a cause they believe in.” He said it would chill political speech. He didn’t say, but the Kochs don’t favor any disclosure of personal spending in political races.
Ray said the bill would require disclosure by tax-exempt organizations, naming specifically the NRA and Family Council. He claimed these organizations are not politically focused, but focus on public welfare. (Side comment: Bull****.) He said transparency could subject contributors to bullying.
Ray didn’t mention that efforts to squelch reporting on issue campaigns has failed at the U.S. Supreme Court thought the challenge specifically raised the issue of potential blowback on contributors. It’s part of the First Amendment.
“It’s not my intent to chill any speech. It just to let the public know of the sources of the advertising,” Tucker said. He noted that the Arkansas Bar Association and the Judicial Discipline Commission supported his bill as to judicial elections.
Tucker said the public should know who pays to get people into elected office. He quoted Justice Anthony Kennedy in saying such disclosure was aimed at preventing corruption.
The committee defeated the bill on a voice vote. No roll call was requested.