Last week, Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn issued a tentative consent allowing political advertising to conceal the supporting donors. This just a few months after the Supreme Court ruled that corporations and other big money interest can spend as much money as they deem necessary on political advertising.
Come election time it is important to know where everyone stands on the issues so that the voter can make an informed decision. Lynn’s decision will prevent transparency in the voting process.
Knowing where public officials stand on the issues is important. But, that extends beyond government and politics. It also extends to every individual and group in the community that takes a public stand. Sometimes the motivation for advocating for or against an issue is not just the belief that it will help the community, it could also be a monetary or personal benefit.
With the recent Supreme Court decision that allows corporations and other groups to spend as much as they want to support political issues, the political arena has changed. Justice Antonin Scalia, who stood with the majority in that decision, supports transparency with an opinion in another case by saying, "You can't run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known." Much more money will now be spent on issues and candidates than ever before. With the secretary of state ruling that donors in support of issues can be kept secret, it will violate the concept of transparency in politics. The voter needs to know all the facts about an issue including who supports it.
The Secretary of State Terri Lynn was wrong to issue a tentative opinion supporting the privacy requests of the Chamber of Commerce. In the final decision, she needs to reverse that opinion. If not, the legislature of the state needs to take immediate action to keep our elections transparent.