Saturday, June 21, 2014

Politics Anonymous

I read with interest how a case in Washington state could make life difficult for the millionaires and billionaires who want their contributions to political campaigns to be anonymous. Here we see the Grocery Manufacturers Association in a fight against an initiative that would require genetically modified organisms to be labeled when sold as food. To defeat that initiative, the GMA used a secret fund that kept the names of the contributors secret. The GMA was unable to get a lawsuit against them dismissed and the case will move forward.

Some may recall the case of Citizens United. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of unlimited money in campaigns based on the belief that there would be disclosure of the names of the contributors in campaigns. So far, there hasn't been anything like disclosure for political contributions. At the same time, they are saying that money is speech, so they should get the protection of anonymity.

I guess the question that comes to mind is this: if the wealthiest people in the world are so passionate about their cause that they are willing to put money into the pot to defeat threats to their cause, why so shy? They have the money, they've already won. They usually get what they want with a check. So why not be proud enough to put their name on the check and let the world know what they believe in to be right?

I don't have the answer to that, but I can surmise that they are worried about consumer backlash. Seems odd doesn't it? The GMA wants consumers to buy their products, but they don't want consumers to be angry at them for supporting conditions that do not further the interests of consumers.

The lack of disclosure creates a problem that few discuss: outside money. Imagine if you will, an important referendum in your home town. Passions about it are high on both sides and plenty of ink has been spilled over it. After the election, your side has lost and then it is revealed that an anonymous source from outside the state has made a major contribution to your opponents in advertising and support. You don't know who they are, but you know that they had very little interest in local control.

That is just in the states. There have also been stories about foreign governments and corporations influencing American politics at the local and national level. Anonymity facilitates the use of outside money in local campaigns. The sources of outside money can influence local conditions from afar, without consequence because they don't live in the same jurisdiction affected by the laws they seek to pass or defeat.

Anonymous money is a way of saying, "Yes, I want to pass a law that adversely affects other people more than me, but I don't want them to know who is doing it to them." That's what the GMA is saying to *us*. The rest of us.

The GMA happens to a happy supporter of GMOs. They claim that they're safe. They claim that they reduce pesticide use - yet glyphosphate is turning up in breast milk. They claim that they're feeding the world. All of these claims have been debunked. But they're happy to flood the market with GMOs and hide their war against laws that require labeling of GMOs on food.

If they're so proud of GMOs and how they're going to feed the world, maybe they could tell us why thousands of farmers in India have committed suicide because they can't make enough money to support their families raising GMO crops.

If they're so proud of the patents on the seeds, they shouldn't have a problem with putting a simple label on it. Especially if the people want GMOs to be labeled.

To the GMA, "though doth protest too much".
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