(image: Chris Potter/Flickr)
Today marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed unlimited political spending by corporations and unions and unleashed an unprecedented amount of outside money into U.S. elections.
The rapid rise in campaign spending has shaken voter confidence in the fairness of our electoral system. Poll after poll shows voters feel their voice is being drowned out by large political donors who often expect a return on their investment and can exert greater influence on policy decisions than the average citizen.
Transparency is the best way to level the playing field. Greater campaign finance disclosure ensures that elected officials feel held accountable to the public interest and not special interests.
To make an informed decision at the ballot box, voters need to know who is funding who and why. Currently voters are often left in the dark about who is spending millions to influence elections and legislators, but Ann Ravel, chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) aims to change that.
As head of California’s political watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, Ravel pushed for greater campaign finance disclosure and supported leveraging technology to improve transparency. Now chair of the FEC, Ravel is leading the charge to bring political disclosure at the federal level into the digital age.
Last week California Forward sent a letter to the FEC, which you can read below, urging the commission to embrace and improve electronic disclosure of campaign finance information and to find examples of best practices from California and other states using technology to increase transparency and enhance efficiency.
Money in politics is here to stay. Stricter campaign finance disclosure rules won’t translate into greater accountability if voters don’t know how to access or interpret the data being disclosed. Removing the technological barriers that impede public access to campaign finance data is key to bolstering the legitimacy of American democracy and to rebuilding public trust.