Republican fundraisers are treating Americans like little children, as if the GOP knows best and must shelter the youngsters from the truth.
It's like when a kindergartner asks his father if mommy is coming home soon, and the widower replies that she's on a long business trip. The parent is attempting to shield the child from the cruel truth, afraid the little one can't handle it.
That's what Republican campaign fundraising groups are doing by concealing their donors from the public. The GOP does not trust Americans to handle the information. Republican operatives want to shield voters from knowing who is actually paying for GOP attack ads. The GOP fears the consequences if Americans know the truth -- exactly which giant corporations and Wall Street banksters are funding vicious screeds against Democrats because those covert donors believe Republicans will deliver for big business.
The secret GOP benefactors are right about one thing: A Republican majority will work for the rich. In a study of income growth post-WWII, Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels determined that earnings rose faster at all income levels under Democratic administrations, but especially for the middle class and the poor. Under Republican presidents, the wealthiest benefited the most, increasing income inequality.
After the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down decades of precedent in January in its Citizens United ruling, defining corporations as "persons" and permitting them to pour unlimited cash into political advertising, Democrats offered legislation to temper that newly-granted corporate power. Called the DISCLOSE Act -- for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections -- it would have required revelation of corporate donations.
Republicans wanted concealment of their corporate sources, however, and scuttled the DISCLOSE Act. This freed private political fundraising groups to take as much money as they can from corporations while providing a cloak of anonymity.
The Republican and Democratic parties still must disclose donors, and unions like the United Steelworkers (USW), which get their political action committee contributions from American members, must provide detailed information on how much they spend, which candidates they support, and the names of people who supply in-kind services as well as the value of the services.
The story of health insurers' disclosed contributions to political parties reveals why Republicans prefer to keep Americans in the dark about gifts to GOP private fundraising groups.
Public reports show that last year, the health-insurance industry split its donations between the two parties, but this year, after passage of health-insurance reform, the contributions are running three to one for Republicans. The insurance corporations have made their demands clear to Republican beneficiaries. They want Republicans to retain in the law the financial windfalls for insurance corporations -- that would be mandates that uninsured Americans get coverage and fines for those who don't. And they want Republicans to delete aspects that will cost insurance companies -- that would be benefits for Americans like requirements that insurers cover sick children and injunctions against dropping policy holders when they get sick.
Wendell Potter, a former executive at Cigna Corp., one of the nation's largest health-insurance corporations, told Noam N. Levey of the Chicago Tribune: "The industry would love to have a Republican Congress. They were very, very successful during the years of Republican domination in Washington."
Voters need to know that insurance corporations overwhelmingly favor Republicans and what the industry expects to get from the GOP. But Americans will not know how much money insurers and other corporations give to shadowy Republican fundraising groups and what those donors demand.
A New York Times investigation provided some insight into one GOP shadow group, the American Future Fund. It has spent $6 million so far on ads attacking Democrats in 13 states. The Times discovered that Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the nation's largest corn-based ethanol companies, provided the seed money for American Future Fund. The Times determined that American Future Fund money is funding ads to defeat Democrats who sit on legislative committees that directly affect the ethanol industry and agricultural subsidies.
Two other secretive Republican groups, American Crossroads GPS and the so-called U.S. Chamber of Commerce, plan to spend $145 million to crush Democrats while concealing their funding sources from Americans.
American Crossroads GPS, brainchild of Republican operative Karl Rove, plans to spend $70 million. Mel Sembler, a shopping mall magnate, told the New York Times that wealthy donors have given the GPS group six and seven-figure checks, and Republicans said one donor, who they refused to name, gave several million dollars. Sembler told the Times why clandestine giving is so attractive to corporations: "They want to be able to be helpful but not be seen by the public as taking sides."
What they don't want to be seen doing is lining their pockets by buying Republican politicians. Neither do the Republican beneficiaries.
Like GPS, the so-called U.S. Chamber of Commerce is an elephant-sized player in the secretive Republican support game. It has spent $25 million on more than 8,000 ads slamming Democrats and backing corporate Republican candidates. It plans to spend $50 million more.
Oddly, the commerce group calls itself the U.S. Chamber while admitting foreign firms and soliciting funds from corporations in places like Bahrain, India and Singapore whose interests may conflict with those of American companies and American citizens. An investigation by Think Progress, a project of the non-partisan Center for American Progress Action Fund, revealed that the so-called U.S. Chamber has accepted at least $885,000 from 84 foreign firms, money that it placed in the same account from which it draws funds to sponsor ads attacking Democratic candidates.
The so-called U.S. Chamber denied that it illegally co-mingles money it gets from foreign corporations with funds it uses to attack Democrats. When Think Progress and others asked the so-called U.S. Chamber to divulge the account's firewall to the public, the so-called U.S. Chamber responded by repeating its assurance that it does nothing wrong and asserting, "We are not obligated to discuss our internal procedures."
Basically, the so-called U.S. Chamber is saying, "trust us," to the American public. On the other hand, the "U.S. Chamber" and groups like American Crossroads GPS don't trust the American public to know their donor lists. What they don't trust is that Americans will do what the GOP wants on Nov. 2 if Republicans' corporate donors are exposed.
The USW challenges the "U.S. Chamber" and GOP funding groups like American Crossroads GPS to show their trust in the American people by disclosing their donors.
Follow Leo W. Gerard on Twitter: www.twitter.com/uswblogger