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National Opinion

November 9, 2012 • Editorial

Campaign disclosure

Six billion dollars.

That’s how much money campaigns and their supporters were expected to spend on the 2012 elections, according to the latest estimate by the Center for Responsive Politics.

It’s a huge and stunning amount that’s only likely to increase in future elections. So voters at least deserve to know where all the big money is coming from.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that money is essentially speech that must be allowed. But the same court has encouraged Congress to require more disclosure of the donors who are doing the speaking.

Money that goes directly to the candidates is already tracked. But money spent by outside groups that mostly attack political opponents is harder to identify. This includes groups such as Americans for Prosperity on the right and the Greater Wisconsin Committee on the left.

Congress should require these shadowy organizations to disclose all of their donors who give $10,000 or more. That won’t take the money out of politics. But it will give citizens more information about who is trying to influence their votes. And it will hold accountable more of these groups for what often are terribly misleading if not flat-out wrong claims and accusations.

The race for president, of course, is the biggest-spending affair, accounting for about $2.6 billion of the projected $6 billion for federal campaigns this cycle, according to the CRP.

Bills requiring more transparency (60 days before elections) at the federal and state levels enjoy bipartisan support.

Let’s get this done in time for the next big splurge.

Guest Editorial

Wisconsin State Journal, Madison

Government spying

How do you prove your rights have been violated by a secret government program if the details of the program are secret?

That’s the essence of the question argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, which could shape how and whether citizens bring legal action against the government for privacy-rights violations in the name of national security.

The frequently mundane issue of “standing,” as it’s called, takes on a deeper significance when considered in the context of the legality of the government spying via the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, expanded in 2008.

Joseph Heller, author of the classic novel “Catch-22,” could hardly have imagined a plot so absurd and canted against the civil rights of ordinary people whose emails and calls are likely being monitored by the government.

Think about it: You know the government is conducting wide-ranging, warrantless searches of communication involving at least one party on foreign soil. You suspect your communications are being captured in the dragnet, but you’re not sure. Since the information is being collected for intelligence purposes — not prosecution where it likely eventually would become public — how can you ever know?

After arguments, court observers had mixed perceptions on how justices received the arguments. Some said the court seemed skeptical about the government’s request that the case be thrown out over standing. Others believe the case faces an uphill battle.

While that may not help the litigants in the case recently argued before the court, lawmakers could — and should — put guardrails in place that would rein in the danger of a government spying program with little oversight.

Guest Editorial

The Denver Post

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