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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Transparency and Irony

Our chapter on interest groups discusses public policy organizations. Some of these groups advocate greater transparency, but as Dan Eggen reports in The Washington Post, many of them do not make public disclosure of their own contributors.
Most of the organizations behind the latest disclosure push — including Americans United for Change, Common Cause and Public Citizen — fall under a portion of the tax code that allows them to keep their donor details private. Some of the groups do reveal their biggest contributors voluntarily, but not at the level of detail required for political campaigns, super PACs and other explicitly election-oriented organizations.

The contrast underscores the muddiness surrounding much of the disclosure debate, because a broad array of the nonprofit groups that advocate for greater transparency in political donations are often not required to make such disclosures themselves.

Crossroads GPS, a nonprofit conservative group that has come under regular fire from liberal organizations for not disclosing its funders, accused its rivals of hypocrisy for seeking refuge under the same confidentiality laws that they criticize.

“They don’t disclose their donors, nobody knows who gives them money,” said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS and its affiliated super PAC, American Crossroads. “But here they are, trying to force other groups to disclose.” 

Adviser Robert Creamer said Americans United “abides by the same standards and rules as all (c)4s” and goes beyond those requirements by identifying the labor groups that support it.
“There are a number of different kinds of organizations that have been involved in campaigns for transparency,” Creamer said. “The point of the current campaign has to do entirely with corporate funds, and our argument that corporations should not be investing shareholder money in trying to influence elections.”