Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Mischief in Mississippi

The mighty river isn't the only thing flowing into the Magnolia State from parts north. Folks in Mississippi can expect a river of cash to keep flowing into their state from undisclosed out-of-state interests thanks to a vote in the Mississippi Senate which effectively killed a bill requiring better disclosure of contributions and loans made to state candidates.

One key provision of the bill would have required political action committees (PACs) to disclose information about contributions received from other PACs. So let's say a PAC called Mississippians for Mississippi Hooray! is throwing money around on advertising for a certain candidate or issue. Under current Mississippi law, a voter who wants to know where MMH is getting their money cannot do so. This allows these PACs to get money from anyone and anywhere without being accountable to the voters of Mississippi.

The new law would have changed this. But, as reported here by Geoff Pender in The Sun Herald, the State Senate engaged in the ol' procedural two-step, and sent the bill back to Committee to die.

State Senator Tommy Robertson explained his opposition as resulting from his desire not to cut corporate America out of politics. Well, Senator, corporate America has plenty of opportunity to play a role in American politics through the votes and contributions of its individual shareholders. When we give corporations the power to give money to political candidates on top of what its shareholders already give, we are granting those shareholders the right to give more than the rest of us, to have a greater say in who gets elected than the rest of us, to determine more than the rest of us under which laws we will live as a society.

The law that got killed in the Mississippi Senate today would have been a tiny step towards providing the citizens of Mississippi with more information about whose money is being used to get their representatives elected. That even it failed, shows how far we have fallen from our democratic ideals, and how far we must go to restore our political system to that simple idea of one person, one vote.

UPDATE: May 11, 2004

As reported here in The Sun Herald, the Mississippi Legislature passed a weakened version of the campaign finance reform bill discussed above. Still no disclosure requirements on PAC-to-PAC contributions though, which means Mississippians still won't know whether the campaign ads they see are paid for by out-of-state concerns or by local folks with local concerns.

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