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Intro: "Bill Moyers addresses the failure of the DISCLOSE Act, and calls out politicians who fight tooth and nail to hide the truth about the wealthy few who purchase and corrupt American democracy."

Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: Robin Holland)
Portrait, Bill Moyers. (photo: Robin Holland)

Fighting Disclosure, Killing Democracy

By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

20 July 12


ur politics took a nightmarish turn this week. Senate Republicans twice blocked a vote to require corporations, unions and obscure organizations hovering in the shadows to tell us who's putting up the millions and millions of dollars for all the propaganda assaulting the public during this political year.

The bill the Republicans killed was already a weak parody of its original intent. It wouldn't even go into effect until after the November auction when the buying and selling of the White House, Congress, state legislatures and courts will have been completed, and the dark money will have done its dirty work. By then a vast pall of secrecy will cover the tracks of the secret donors. The knife plunged into the heart of democracy will have been wiped clean of the fingerprints of those who wielded it. The public will not even know who owns title to our government.

Both our political parties are up to their necks in this corruption; it was Barack Obama, you'll recall, who tossed public funding under the bus four years ago, then hauled in huge sums of money from Wall Street fat cats he later promised to protect from public wrath over their ill-gotten gains. And when there was just a brief chance to reform carried interest, the trickery that enables the Mitt Romneys of the world to pay a tax rate far below working people, Wall Street Democrats like Chuck Schumer helped to snuff it out in the cradle.

But the Republicans, once the party of Lincoln -- "government of, by, and for the people," remember? -- have thrown their soul into the bargain.

Once upon a time they said, "Let there be light."

Here's Ronald Reagan in l988: "We need full disclosure of all campaign contributions...."

Here's the first George Bush in l989: "Disclosure -- full disclosure -- that's the answer."

Senator John McCain in 2004: "What reform does is create transparency, equality, and participation..."

Senator Scott Brown in 2012: "Attack ads, from unaccountable, outside groups that spend millions of dollars from anonymous donors portraying their opposition unfairly and misleading voters are wrong."

Once upon a time even Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was for transparency. Even Mitch McConnell sang, "Let the sunshine in." In l997 he said disclosing campaign donors and spending "should be expedited so voters can judge for themselves what is appropriate." Three years later he called for "real disclosure" and asked, "Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?"

That was then. Now Mitch McConnell has become a walking alibi for corruption. He lines up every Republican in the Senate -- every one of them -- to protect their secret donors. And he does so twice in one week.

Why? Because they have made it their mission to prevent majority rule. And because they are no longer a conservative party. The noted political scientist Sheldon Wolin, in his book Democracy Inc., writes that the Republican Party is now radically oligarchical -- programmed to advance corporate economic and political interests and to protect and promote inequalities of opportunity and wealth. There's the nightmarish future: a government run of, by, and for the rich, while everyday Americans are left to lives of lowered earnings, chronic insecurity in the workplace, and a vulnerable old age.

This is why secrecy is a must. Because that vision -- of a nation no longer fair, no longer just -- cannot possibly win free and open elections conducted as honest competition. The majority of Americans -- citizens of a country born in what one historian calls "the age of democratic revolutions" -- would never choose to be governed by the few at the expense of the many. Politicians required to play by the rules, to openly confess that their loyalty has been purchased and forced to identify the highest bidders, could not possibly survive the scrutiny. So they must bend the rules to conceal their transactions. In doing in democracy, their safety is in secrecy, and we must be kept in the dark. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

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It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

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+44 # tswhiskers 2012-07-20 11:12
Thank you for plainly stating the increasing loss of freedom in this country. Until recently the media have as usual been behind the curve in reporting the growing anti-democratic changes wrought in parts or all of the U.S. by Rep. governors and legislators. In the last 2-3 years depending on the state people have lost voting rights, reproductive rights, privacy rights and labor rights. And, amazingly to me, until very recently these rights have disappeared without a murmur from the pulic or the media. We still one right of course, and that is the right to kill each other should the "need" arise to do so. Thanks only to MSNBC's Rachel Maddow et al, we know that several cities and towns in Michigan are now being run as political dictatorships, that Gov. Ultrasound of VA will probably not be a VP pick and that the Reps, having nothing else to run on, are now spewing lies about Obama on Fox News and in political ads. Seriously, can Fox news be sued for slander and libel?
+28 # grouchy 2012-07-20 11:32
You leave out we still maintain THE RIGHT TO VOTE! Now let's see if we still want to sit on our hands and not use it again!
+2 # John Locke 2012-07-20 12:51
grouchy: What good is the "right to vote" when both candidates are controlled by the same money and each does as his handlers insist????? Isn't voting in reality an illusion that you have a choice?

You continue to Give Obama a free pass WHY? almost every article recently shows Obama for what he is... it must be very painfull to wear those blinders in so much sunlight?

"Both our political parties are up to their necks in this corruption; it was Barack Obama, you'll recall, who tossed public funding under the bus four years ago, then hauled in huge sums of money from Wall Street fat cats he later promised to protect from public wrath over their ill-gotten gains."

Think, look at the evidence and stop giving this bum a free pass!
+1 # engelbach 2012-07-20 15:40
Right on target, "John Locke."
+18 # Regina 2012-07-20 17:17
You'd rather give Romney the jillionaire job-evaporator a free pass??? The etch-a-sketch opinionator who refuses to disclose his manipulated tax returns??? The cretin of whom the Rovian power bloc has already said that their only requirement for a president is his ability to sign his name on whatever dotted line they prepare for him??? Obama may be the lesser of two evils, but at least he's lesser!!!
+8 # mdhome 2012-07-20 21:46
The difference is not as much as I would like, BUT RoMoney will get us into a war with Iran, do away with Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, School funding, aid to police and fire departments, the Affordable Care Act, raise taxes on the working families, give tax breaks to the millionaires, stop funding for Planned Parenthood, which is the only way many low income people have for medical care, get rid of Roe V Wade. If you check the thing he has said for the last 5 or 6 years you will see that he has flipped 180 degrees on a host of things, so really we cannot be sure of anything except his plan calls for tax breaks on the wealthy, and offset it with reduced aid to schools, infrastructure and low wage earners. He has called out for the Ryan plan which dumps medicare patients out on the street, and will increase the debt by a larger amount than any president ever.
+4 # paulrevere 2012-07-20 13:30
John Locke...I agree...grouchy , please do some research on electronic vote cast, tally, aggregate and transmit...afte r doing that, for a bit of back up, ask yourself how it is that every major entity on the entire planet has been spending tens of billions of dollars per year on network security...for the past AT LEAST FORTY YEARS!

Now, you still think your right to vote has ANY validity?...oh yeh, then there is the Argonne Labs boyz who hacked a Diebold machine from a half mile away with a laptop and a ten buck gizmo from RadioShack...
+11 # dkonstruction 2012-07-20 14:28
Quoting grouchy:
You leave out we still maintain THE RIGHT TO VOTE! Now let's see if we still want to sit on our hands and not use it again!

That's unless you were one of the 20,000 (?) african american voters thrown off the roles in Florida in 2000 and which gave us W -- sorry, it wasn't Nader); or how many in Ohio in 2004? And, now how many tens if not hundreds of thousands are going to be illegally thrown off the roles for the 2012 election? And let's not forget all those convicted of felonies that served their time but are still not allowed to vote (not to mention those still in prison). So, at the very least we need to add a big time qualifier or asterisk to the right to vote in the US
+2 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 10:11
Florida is at it again and the judges are letting them get away with it.
+13 # Regina 2012-07-20 17:12
Yes, we have the right to vote -- provided we can hustle up the very specific documentation that more than half of the states are now enacting into their election laws. The Republican Governors' Association is driving that unconstitutiona l campaign, and one of the drivers has already announced that the purpose of these enactments is to make sure that Obama loses. So much for the vanishing right to vote!
+2 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 10:09
Yes we have the right to vote, but that didn't matter in Bush/Gore did it? Gore got the popular vote but the Surpreme Court picked the president anyway. What does that tell you about the Surpreme Court?
+4 # mdhome 2012-07-20 21:35
Seriously, can Fox news be sued for slander and libel? NO, they won a lawsuit in Florida a few years ago that allowed them to keep telling lies with no penalty or punishment.
+37 # Barbara K 2012-07-20 11:13
Killing our democracy is precisely what the Koch Brothers and Karl Rove have in mind. They want the rights to be only for the few of them, and none for the rest of us. They've been killing it for the past several years, slowly sneaking up on us like a snake in the grass. They use the Republicans/Tba ggers to accomplish it all. Now we know why they recruited the Tbaggers who were so brainwashed they don't know how they've been USED, and not smart enough to know that they will suffer right along with the rest of us. It is so imperative that we get that bunch out of our Congress, or we might as well accept that we will be serfs to the rich they are all so beholding to.

Never vote republican, our future is at stake.
-10 # John Locke 2012-07-20 12:53
Barbara K: Did you not read the article?

"Both our political parties are up to their necks in this corruption; it was Barack Obama, you'll recall, who tossed public funding under the bus four years ago, then hauled in huge sums of money from Wall Street fat cats he later promised to protect from public wrath over their ill-gotten gains"

If I recall Obama is a Democrat and not a Republican... I realize its hard to find the difference from how he has acted!!!
+10 # Todd Williams 2012-07-21 06:45
Barbara, how dare you compare Rove and the Koch brothers to a snake! You do all snakes a grave disservice.
+1 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 10:12
+25 # mike/ 2012-07-20 11:15
you have to remember when Republicans think of the word 'democracy' they equate it with 'anarchy'...
0 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 10:13
yes...a Repub said it recently, but I can't remember who
+10 # dkonstruction 2012-07-20 11:28
money in politics is certainly a huge problem but, again, it is simply wrong to say that this is simply a problem brought on us by those evil republicans. Obama got more money from Street than McCain did so is it any wonder that once elected he dumps the economic advisors he relied on during the campaign(people like Stiglitz and Reich) and we wind up with Tim Geithner as Treasury Secretary? And, while they may now be using the old name, Panther Stadium, the dems have not listened to those calling for them not to hold their convention in an anti-union "right to work" state and in "Bank of America Stadium." so, yes, money in politics is a huge problem but for the most part the dems have been just as guilty as the repubs in taking and being beholden to corporate money and their interests. And, so yes, part of the answer is repealing Citizens United but there was still plenty of corporate money and influence to go around before it and unless and until we get publicly funded elections it will still be a huge problem even if CU is repealed.

Way past time for progressives to stop being cheer leaders for the democratic party and at least be honest that both parties represent the interests of capital (albeit if different factions...the ruling class is not now nor has it ever been a political monolith).
+28 # Barbara K 2012-07-20 12:27
dkonstruction: It is not the Dems blocking everything, it is strictly the Republicans/Tba ggers doing the blocking and filibustering and then there are not enough Dems there to break the filibusters. The Dems try desperately and get no help from the Reps to get anything done. You are wrong to blame both, that is what the Republicans do when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, blame the Dems too. It is not true. The only ones trying to help us are the Dems. I watch the Senate and watched this go down the past few days, just as Mr. Moyers said, and you can watch for yourself too.
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-07-20 13:34
Barbara K, with all due respect,

it was a democrat, Bill Clinton, that deregulated the financial markets that gave us the mortgage debacle and the resulting broader financial meltdown. It was Clinton that "ended welfare as we know it." It was Clinton, that pressed for the draconian drug laws (including the crack cocaine laws) that are a big part of "the new jim crow" in this country. According to Congressman Conyers, it was a democrat, Obama (and not the republicans) that offered to put Social Security "on the table" in the deficit reduction talks (even though SS contributes not one penny to the deficit). It is a democrat, Obama, a constitutional law professor, that pushed for having the power to detain (permanently if they want to) anyone (including american citizens) anywhere in the world forever without ever formally charging, trying or convicting them of anything. It was a democrat, Obama, who sanctioned US involvement in at least 1 (if not 2 or 3) illegal overthrow of democratically elected leaders (honduras for sure). Was Vietnam only the responsibility of republicans. during the recent congressional hearings on J.P. Morgan, Barclays, HSBC, etc., not a single dem. talked about any of the banks actions as being criminal. Come on; what the heck are you defending these bums for? To do so is simply to deny history. Do the dems suck less than the repubs? In most cases, sure. But is that our yardstick for real change in this country?
+6 # Todd Williams 2012-07-21 06:49
We defend "these bums" because they are less of bums than the Rethugs. Obama has done many things wrong, but overall I have to go with him over Lord Romney. Match them up side by side and I hope you'll agree that for all of Obama's faults, he still is a better president than Romney would be.
+1 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 10:31
To dkonstruction.. .You blame Bill Clinton for deregulating the financial markets, but you fail to mention that major banks and financial service firms regularly lobbied for deregulation in the United States since the 1970s. The bulk of the deregulation was performed under the Bill Clinton administration, sandwiched between the two Bush administrations of George H.W. Bush (1988-1992) and George W. Bush (2000-2008). However, the two Bush administrations were far from inactive in the deregulation sphere

The idea of deregulating financial markets is driven by the free market philosophy of social and economic relations. While the idea had been bandied about since the Nixon administration, it was the Reagan administration, with George H.W. Bush as vice president, that began the legislative push to end federal oversight over Wall Street, the banks and the financial services sector

At the very end of the first Bush administration in 1992, one of the crucial deregulatory decisions was made to permit banks to function outside of their state boundaries. This was a major step in that it permitted banks to get involved with major commercial deals of international scope, and eventually eliminated smaller local banks. Banking, after this reform, became an oligarchy, dominated by a few major big-city banks involved in international speculation and investment.
0 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 10:49
Again you fail to mention that the "power to detain" already existed as 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), although Obama did greatly expand the provisions.
+1 # carolsj 2012-07-21 22:22
At least with the Dems in power we have a better chance of changing some laws. I will go for the lesser evil if it's my only choice. The repubs are hoping you will not choose/vote because then they're a shoo-in. Why do you think they're cutting the rolls? So only brainwashed idiots will vote.
-6 # dkonstruction 2012-07-20 14:00
Quoting Barbara K:
dkonstruction: It is not the Dems blocking everything, it is strictly the Republicans/Tbaggers doing the blocking and filibustering and then there are not enough Dems there to break the filibusters. The Dems try desperately and get no help from the Reps to get anything done. You are wrong to blame both, that is what the Republicans do when they get caught with their hand in the cookie jar, blame the Dems too. It is not true. The only ones trying to help us are the Dems. I watch the Senate and watched this go down the past few days, just as Mr. Moyers said, and you can watch for yourself too.

And what do the dems do when they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar?...hmmmm... ..when bill clinton's hands were caught in jennifer flowers cookie jar he decided to go back to arkansas to precide over the execution of a man so mentally retarded that he didn't even know his last meal was his last meal and about whom the republican prosecutor said should not be executed? He does the same thing again in 1998 after he was caught in Monica's cookie jar (which he should never have been impeached for i will grant you) when he bombed a Sudanese pharmaceutical factory. Come on, the dems just like different cookies....or was that Wieners?
+7 # engelbach 2012-07-20 15:42
Not once have the Dems stood up to the filibuster and forced the GOP to actually filibuster. They have simply counted the votes and gone home.
+4 # John Locke 2012-07-20 16:46
engelbach: Thank you! That is so true...The Democrats just cave in and are afraid to fight...I think it's more about losing their financial support as the reason they appear to give the Republicans everything they want!!!Right now it would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two controlled parties! Yes there are some minor variations...bu t they are minor!
+6 # jwb110 2012-07-20 12:15
If they didn't have something to hide they would not have voted it down.
+21 # Barbara K 2012-07-20 12:23
jwb110: The Republicans blocked it, it wasn't voted down. They blocked it from even coming to a vote. The Dems tried desperately to bring it to a vote. I watched it happen in the Senate.
-3 # John Locke 2012-07-20 13:01
Barbara K: Did Obama push it? NO!
+3 # engelbach 2012-07-20 15:43
Did the Senate Dems force the GOP to actally hold a filibuster? No.
+22 # thomachuck 2012-07-20 12:39
Bill Moyers, as usual, gives a pretty balanced and fair portrayal of his subject. I still think the Democrats have transparency on their side; we will never have it under a Romney presidency and the controversy du jour about tax returns and past employment bear that out. Electing a president is about trust and somehow I think people are getting that.
-8 # John Locke 2012-07-20 13:05
thomachuck: What Transparency? Obama has been the least transparent president we have had... and Been responsible for blocking lawsuits over torture! He has used the States Secrets defense more then even Bush did! How is this being transparent?
-10 # paulrevere 2012-07-20 13:43
Plato's Cave at work on the left...
-5 # paulrevere 2012-07-20 20:26
heh...okay...Ca mbodian shadow dance then.
+12 # doneasley 2012-07-20 20:57
Quoting John Locke:
... Obama has been the least transparent president we have had... How is this being transparent?

You must not have been around, John Locke, during the Bush administration when more than 5 Million e-mails - being stored illegally on RNC servers - were "inexplicably' deleted. Or when Cheney wouldn't disclose minutes and attendees at his energy meetings, and used taxpayer money to take the case before the Supreme Court. Or when Cheney and his minions, in a spiteful rage, outed a CIA agent and wasted 2 years of taxpayer money and time while they lied about who did what. Or the lying buildup to the Iraqi invasion - a whole year of lies by an entire administration. Or the lies about $12 Million cash that disappeared in Iraq. Or the Cheney/Hallibur ton no-bid contracts. And, oh yeah, before Bush even came to office, how can we forget the whole ballot counting fiasco in Florida which ended when GOP hoodlums threatened to kill the Miami-Dade poll workers if they didn't stop their recount? This ended in
Bush being SELECTED by the Supreme Court even though Gore had 1/2 million votes more.

Transparency, huh? Need I say more???
-8 # John Locke 2012-07-21 00:22
doneasley: ONe point Fast and Furious! just a start!
+7 # DHa7763100 2012-07-21 11:13
Fast and Furious started under Bush and was implemented as Obama took office. A radical blogger came up with a consiricy theory around F & F. He just made it up and people took it as fact. It has escalated from there. Someone saw it and passed it off to a small politician, who passed it onto a larger politician and it ended up in Issa'a hands who took it and ran with it, without checking the facts.
Everybody cannot be privy to information regarding National Security. And when they are left out of the loop, they whine about it and cause a big stink.
+5 # Todd Williams 2012-07-21 06:52
So John, tell us who you are planning to vote for? I am really curious. It appears you dislike Obama. I'm dying to know if you are a turncoat Dem or a closet Rethug?
-6 # engelbach 2012-07-20 15:44
Electing a president ought to be about what he will do for working people.

Unfortunately, both parties belong to the ruling class.
-2 # mgwmgw 2012-07-20 13:05
The best way to tell the Republicans and Democrats that you disapprove is to vote for someone who is neither party. If the Green Party and Libertarian Party get enough support in the polls, they will have to be allowed into the debates, and even if they do not win, that will change the conversation.
-5 # BradFromSalem 2012-07-20 13:27
Transparency and disclosure had always been a lot more difficult prior to the internet. Politicians and bureaucrats got used to hiding behind piles of paper and layers of administrators. Now that we the people have the tools and the capability to review approximately all public information instantly, they put it all behind legal walls.
So now that full disclosure really means - full disclosure - they attempt to turn back the clock.
Soon, we will start having candidates and judges that have lived the open information meme all their lives. Soon, slowly at first, then an avalanche of change will overtake the old school hide and seek way of thinking. For an example, look at gay marriage and how it was an issue used against Sen. Kerry in 2004, weakened Romney in 2008 and now only matters to handful of nuts.
-2 # BradFromSalem 2012-07-23 12:48
Wow! 3 Thumbs down. So much for a little optimism now and then.
-10 # cordleycoit 2012-07-20 14:58
Who to vote for? On one hand we have the multi millionaire greed head And on the other the undefined power manic who pulls the trigger on kids. Choiceless choice.
-4 # Kathymoi 2012-07-20 17:12
We know this for certain about the republican party. What about president obama? There are some outstanding democrats in the political scene today (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren come quickly to mind), but I'm not impressed with the democratic candidate who is running for president. I'd sure like a better option.
-5 # John Locke 2012-07-21 00:23
Kathymoi: I second that...
+1 # Todd Williams 2012-07-21 06:57
Well, guess what Kathymoi, you're not getting a better option this time around. I voted for Nadar the first time and got roundly criticized by my fellow Dems for "throwing away my vote." So then I vote for Obama and he wins. Now I'm getting the stink eye from some Dems for planning to vote for Obama again and I'm being told to vote for another thrid party candidate. Screw this!
+3 # angelfish 2012-07-20 18:06
Democracy has been it's Death throes for quite a while now, Bill. The failure of the Disclosure Bill is just another nail in it's coffin. Until there is an awakening of Morality in our Congress, we will continue to fail and falter. The people who hold powerful positions in our Congress have become too blinded by THEIR Rightness and have forgotten that we are a Nation Of, By and For the PEOPLE, NOT just the Rich, but ALL the People! This is why it is IMPERATIVE to re-elect President Obama so that NEVER again will we have Political Hacks and Toadies appointed to our SCOTUS! Never, EVER vote ReTHUGlican! The People, UNITED, will NEVER be defeated!
+2 # tomtom 2012-07-20 19:31
Hey, thank you, Bill, but, give us their names, the republicans and democratic voters want to know all the particulars. We voters are outside thE loop. There's too much going on for us to remember and keep track of. Voters need more help. We want names, the regions they represent, their party, the law in question and their term status, so we can better monitor their asses. Thank you, tom
-1 # John Steinsvold 2012-07-20 20:21
An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative". She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein
+9 # Organizer 2012-07-21 05:40
Remember that famous line by Noam Chomsky,"When you vote for the lesser of two evils, you get...less evil" Let's tuck our big moral wings under our coats for a change and get real about politics. There is no political utopia, there are only choices. And if you have any belief in the future of some sort of participatory democracy, the democrats are the best choice
+1 # acomfort 2012-07-21 18:30
Wow! Look how far we have come . . .
Not long ago we were fighting to get money out of politics and losing. Now we are only fighting to know who is spending the money on politics and we are still losing.
What a country!
+1 # walt 2012-07-23 07:15
One more example of government of, by, and for corporate America,not the people.

Obama was the real hope four years ago when he claimed he would not take the big money. How quickly he caved on this along with others like McCain who demanded transparency in elections.

Maybe the time has come for a new political party in the USA. The two we have are serving corporate America very well, but not the American people!

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