Disclosure for corporations, so why not politics?
In N.H., an unknown number of out-of-state special-interest organizations are spending millions to support or defeat candidates, and state law doesn’t require disclosure of any of it
When it comes to public companies, disclosure is an important word. We require publicly traded companies to reveal information that is material to those who would invest their money in them. Disclosure is certainly not perfect in corporate America, but it is improving.
Unfortunately, the standard of disclosure is still woefully lacking when it comes to politics.
Last month we witnessed Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig pick up the torch of the late Doris "Granny D" Haddock. He and other citizens walked from Dixville Notch to Nashua to call attention to the national problem of how today special-interest organizations are debasing and harming our democracy. In part, this is due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.
In effect, this court decision opened the floodgates of special interest money now influencing our national elections.
Here in New Hampshire, an unknown number of out-of-
state special-interest organizations are spending millions of dollars in political communications to support or defeat candidates. Unfortunately, current state law does not require disclosure of any of it. In fact, New Hampshire's disclosure laws do not require these so-called “independent” or special-interest organizations to register or report anything – not where the money comes from or where it goes. Thus, outside money flows into our state anonymously.
Thankfully, there is now legislation pending in Concord (House Bill 392) that says, in effect, “no” to this non-disclosure standard in our state — and “no” to New Hampshire now being the highest per capita recipient in the nation of outside special-interest money.
This legislation would require all qualifying organizations to register and disclose to the public a basic level of their political influence, like who they are giving money to in the Granite State.
We should demand no less a standard from our political system than we do our corporate one. It’s time for an overhaul before the cancer spreads further. We need to have meaningful public dialogue as to how to make our political landscape fair for all citizens — Republicans, Democrats, and independents. No less than our democracy depends on it.
Tell Concord that New Hampshire is not for sale.
Mark Connolly is principal of New Castle Investment Advisors LLC and former state director of securities regulation.