Senate should consider real time transparency to counteract McCutcheon

A pile of hundred dollar bills
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

At a hearing today, the Senate Rules Committee attempted to address the issues of more money in politics that stem from the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United and McCutcheon cases. The hearing was strong on the problems — already well documented — but short on solutions.

Senators focused on the DISCLOSE Act and a constitutional amendment as ways to fix the mess the court created. While both of those goals are laudable, the reality is that neither is likely to be enacted anytime soon. Missing from today’s hearing was discussion of the Real Time Transparency Act, H.R. 4442 and S. 2207 would ensure the public knows in real time when individuals give massive contributions directly to candidates and committees. A disclosure-only bill that simply builds on the current campaign disclosure regime, the Real Time Transparency Act should not face the partisan hurdles of DISCLOSE or an amendment.

Indeed, even Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — no fan of campaign finance reform — said the solution to today’s money in politics problems is to require immediate disclosure of unlimited contributions. While we may not agree with Cruz that disclosure is the only solution, we agree with many of the witnesses and senators who echoed our long held position that full disclosure is a critical first step. For all practical purposes, Cruz’s desire for unlimited contributions is already a reality as a result of the McCutcheon decision.

But our disclosure system fails to meet the standard he set for immediate reporting — with a delay of possibly three months until the public is aware of who is cutting multi-million dollar checks to buy access and gain influence over our elected officials. The Real Time Transparency Act is a simple step to empower voters, and one that should have vigorous support from members on both side of the aisle.