Former Gov. Huckabee Adds To The Confusion About Disclosure

October 26, 2010 9:21 am ET — Alan Pyke

Friday on Fox News, Mike Huckabee acknowledged the important reality that "all political giving is in some manner preservation of oneself." But the rest of his conversation with host Neil Cavuto never addressed the next logical question: whose self-interest is being preserved by political ad spending, and why won't groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS tell us whose interests their ads serve?

Arguing that union money is equivalent to the Chamber of Commerce's money because it is heavily partisan, Huckabee missed the main point: disclosure. Cavuto was even more confused than Huckabee, claiming at one point that union members would be upset because "that's their money," and then later saying that since AFSCME members are public employees, "it's really our money." (It's not.) Watch:

It may not fit the right-wing narrative, but the difference between union and corporate money is we know where the union money comes from. The Chamber of Commerce, Crossroads GPS, Americans for Prosperity and the like will never, ever tell us where they get their funding. Union money is rigorously disclosed, and voluntarily given by working families around the country.

The problem is emphatically not that political giving is self-preservation. It's that we're being denied the chance to see just who is deciding their self-interest will be advanced by Republican rule. If it's, say, industry groups that outsource jobs by the thousand, that's something that might influence a person's vote. (Similarly, if the Rove groups are funded by small businesses and grassroots donors, that information should be available to voters. But it isn't. So we don't know.)

To put it in Huckabee's language, we know the self-interest being served when unions give to Democrats. We don't know whose interest is being served by the Chamber et al buying stock in RepubliCorp.

Would our political process be healthier and better-informed with a robust public-financing law? Absolutely. Politicians would have a bigger incentive to make good policy than to raise money, because they wouldn't have to raise money anymore.

In the meantime, let's stop pretending that the unions and the anonymous-donor right-wing groups are equivalent. They're not.