By Elizabeth DiNovella on December 11, 2013

The SEC released a list of its priorities for 2014 and there's one glaring omission.

The SEC dropped the proposal to regulate "dark money" aka undisclosed campaign cash.

The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling opened the door to unlimited spending by corporations and unions on political activities as long as the money was independent from candidates and political parties. Moreover, corporate contributions can go undisclosed if they are given to trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or nonprofits like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS.

A loose coalition of civic society groups, shareholder activists, Democratic elected officials, and pension funds spent a good part of 2013 pushing the SEC to require publicly-traded corporations to reveal political donations to their shareholders, which would shed light on all the dark money transforming campaign spending.

But the SEC decided not to go down that road.

"We're incredibly disappointed by this, and we need an explanation for why they removed the most widely supported regulation in their docket," Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, told The Huffington Post.

So corporations can continue to spend lavishly on campaigns and not tell their shareholders about it.

The proposal received more than a half million comments, mostly in favor of political disclosure.

Not surprisingly, the idea was fiercely fought by powerful trade associations (and dark money funnels) such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Manufacturers Association, and the Business Roundtable.

These business groups, along with other tax-exempt organizations, spent hundreds of millions of dollars during the 2012 elections, but they did not have to reveal their donors.

Why all the secrecy? Companies, it seems, feared offending their customers or their shareholders or even the lawmakers they targeted for defeat.

This leaves us in a very vulnerable position: There's unprecedented corporate election spending, but no disclosure laws.

"It is an uphill battle to get disclosure in dark money. We saw an opening with the SEC and that door seemed to have been open reasonably wide," Lisa Rosenberg, government affairs consultant to the Sunlight Foundation, told Al Jazeera America. "Now it's closed a little bit, and it's very disappointing because there's so much resistance to disclosure in general that is coming from a small number of donors."

That small number of donors understands that untraceable moolah is the gift that keeps on giving.

Photo: Flickr creative commons.


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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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