Since a 5-4 Supreme Court opened a wide door to outsider political giving - even calling it a form of "free speech"! - the New York Times reports more donations are coming from 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporations and other entities that don’t have to disclose who their donors are. Before the court decision, this type of stealth political giving was far more limited. Still, most campaign donations from donors and PACs flowing through “normal” channels still are reported due to the successful passage of disclosure laws at the state and federal level. All that disclosure is now online. Two great websites that help practicioners and the media track the source of contributions by donors and their interests are: FollowtheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.
The Court decision to ok unlimited independent expenditure campaigns remains highly unpopular. In polls, the public overwhelming favors more campaign finance reform not less. More disclosure will help. But the most promising solution is to provide public matching funds to candidates who agree to limits on spending and to accept only contributions from small donors. Systems like this already work in many states and cities. Now in the wake of the controversial Court decision, a fair election funding proposal that would make far-reaching changes in how campaigns are funded is making unprecedented progress in Congress. After years of grassroots work, The Fair Elections Act gets its first ever House vote tomorrow in the Committee on Administration. Follow the progress of the Fair Elections Act here.