In Terms of Transparency, the First Step is Admitting There is a Problem

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In its platform, released yesterday, the Democratic Party decrees that, “We are committed to the most open, efficient, and accountable government in history, and we believe that government is more accountable when it is transparent.” Us too.

Indeed, the platform’s broad strokes in support of a more transparent government contain little for us to quibble about. It recognizes the dangers of the Citizens United decision, and embraces lobbying reform and more robust disclosure of money in politics. (A position past Republican platforms championed as well.) There is tension, however, between the aspirations of the party platform and reality. For while the platform accurately notes that neither the president nor the national Democratic Party accept contributions from lobbyists, both accept and contributions from other influence peddlers, including big bundlers who don’t happen to fall under the Lobbying Disclosure Act regime. Moreover, the party and the president have been the beneficiaries—though to a far lesser extent than Romney and the Republicans—of ads paid for by groups who hide their donors, even as the platform supports “requiring groups trying to influence elections to reveal their donors so the public will know who’s funding the political ads it sees.”

Despite the gap between practice and platform, the party’s strong support for transparency is important, especially in light of the Republican platform, which seemed to go out of its way to reject sunlight. It demonstrates an understanding of the problem of dark money and elections that are paid for by the highest (secret) bidder. And admitting there is a problem is always the first step towards fixing it.

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