When a homeowner puts up a candidate's yard sign or slaps a bumper sticker on the family car, he or she risks alienating friends, neighbors, and even relatives who hold different views.
Millions of us do it anyway. We're proud of our politics. We say "Good for you!" to those who disagree. We believe an honest exchange of ideas is vital to a vigorous democracy.
But a big chunk of corporate America, led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, apparently lacks the guts to stand up for their beliefs .
Fearful that some of us would take our business elsewhere if they voiced their political views openly, these corporations and their millionaire executives hid behind the chamber and a series of slapped-together political committees this fall to secretly pour hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for the House and Senate, governorships and state legislatures.
Congress let them get away with it. And they'll do it again in 2012, with more secret money and more attack ads, unless Congress acts -- now.
Twice this year, the Senate had a chance to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would force companies, trade associations and unions that wade into the political arena to do so openly, reporting their donations to parties and causes.
And twice, a Republican-led filibuster stopped the bill in its tracks.
Democrats made it easy. Their original bill included cleverly-drafted provisions that would have exempted groups like the National Rifle Association and AARP from the disclosure requirements. And in the Senate, they blocked Republicans from offering amendments that would have permitted a full debate.
This has to stop. Majority Leader Harry Reid needs to bring a clean bill to the floor, open the process to a full debate and insist on a vote. Keep the Senate in session all night, all of several nights if that's what it takes, and let those who want to talk disclosure to death have a crack at it.
It comes down to this: Whose side is our Senate on?
The choice is clear. It's between hedge fund billionaires, oil executives and health insurance honchos looking to buy our elections, but lacking the courage to do it openly, and the American people who have a right to know who's behind the spending.
With the DISCLOSE vote, the Senate will either use its power to inform Americans about the hidden forces spending millions to influence our elections, or protect Wall Street and join a conspiracy to deceive the American people.
Whose side is your senator on?
The time for rhetoric around transparency is over. Now is the time to act.