In the week following the Senate’s failure to bring the DISCLOSE Act to the floor for a vote, the pollsters at Gallup were calling up a random sample of voters and asking them their priorities for the next president.
The number two priority? “Reducing corruption in the federal government.” Of respondents, 87% said that reducing corruption was either extremely important (45%) or very important (42%).
Number one in the priority list, of course, was the predictable “Creating good jobs.” (92% saw it as extremely or very important.) But corruption came out ahead of “Reducing the federal budget deficit” (86% extremely or very important), “Dealing with terrorism and other international threats” (86%) and “Ensuring the long-term stability of Social Security & Medicare” (85%).
Certainly, low trust in government and the feeling that special interests are running Washington have been staples of public opinion polling for years.
But there is a different feel this election season. With the remarkable sums filing the coffers of super PACs ($314 million in receipts and counting) and more ominously, the probably at least $1 billion (but who really knows?) in undisclosed secret money, this election feels qualitatively different.
As we explained recently, 501(c) organizations, which don’t have to disclose their donors or announce their spending until right before the election, will likely outspend the super PACs, which do have to disclose their spending and donations.
Secrecy enables corruption, and secrecy breeds distrust. When so much is deliberately kept behind closed doors, one naturally wonders: what are they hiding? Why don’t these donors want their contributions known? And why are 44 Senators willing to vote against legislation that would make campaign finance more transparent?
Back in April, the Brennan Center for Justice found that 70% of respondents thought that: “Super PAC spending will lead to corruption,” and more than 80% thought that “compared with past elections, the money being spent by political groups this year is more likely to lead to corruption.” Rasmussen has “Government Ethics and Corruption” as its third-most important issue (64%), just behind Health Care (67%). Economy, of course, is number one (74%).
The best way to put an end to corruption and to restore faith in the political process is to make everything as transparent as possible. Let the public see where all the money is going and coming from, so individual voters can make informed decisions and hold politicians accountable. Require political donors to have the courage of their convictions. The Declaration of Independence, after all, was not signed by Anonymous.
What’s telling about this Gallup poll is that corruption could be a real campaign issue. Voters are concerned about what’s happening. They don’t like all the secret money. They want candidates who are going to do something to reduce corruption. Campaign finance transparency would be a great start.