Coming from a Conservative: Citizens United has Screwed Us
Citizens United is a big problem for those of us who like transparency in government. Yes, I do believe that individuals or groups should be able to spend as much as they want promoting any candidate whom they so choose. However, we the public should have access to information on from where that money has come. Citizens United has robbed us of this basic level of transparency from our government officials and associated groups.
Here’s an example: NC-based “Carolina Rising,” a 501-c(4) whose formation was announced in April of this year. The group seems to be run unilaterally by Dallas Woodhouse, a former leader of the North Carolina Americans for Prosperity. The group filed its first spending report with the FEC less than a month ago, and has since spent $3,279,626 – all in support of Thom Tillis. The entirety of the group’s spending has gone to “Crossroads Media,” a company with at least secondary ties to Karl Rove, as evidenced by this Daily Haymaker report.
So where did that $3.2 million come from? As far as I’m aware, Carolina Rising didn’t set up some greatly successful business venture within a matter of months, giving them their millions with which they are able to purchase their commercials. Dallas Woodhouse has obviously received vast amounts of money from individual or corporate donors. As a 501-c(4), Carolina Rising need not disclose that information, which is an ideal funding avenue for those who don’t want their contributions to be known to the public.
Without contributor information, the public is unable to determine whether individuals or corporations are being directly benefited from the powers of office of the legislators whose campaigns they have financed.
A recent NBC news piece linked tens of thousands of dollars given to a pro-Thom Tillis Super PAC to the dates that elected officials (including Thom Tillis) provided state funding that would enable the construction of a new exit ramp off of I-77. The exit will provide access to a piece of property owned by the Tillis PAC contributors (TC Investors/ACN), greatly increasing the value of the property which they intend to develop for retail and condo space, and saving ACN tens of millions of dollars on the construction of the exit.
While the contributions were able to be linked to the ACN group (with some level of effort) because of the report’s disclosure forms, had TC Investors instead made the contribution to a group such as Carolina Rising, they could have hidden their donation from public disclosure. Which leads one to ask: how do we know they haven’t?
There are many who say that opposition to Citizens United amounts to opposition to free speech. Understand that it’s not the ads that bother me. Run all the ads you want. If Dallas Woodhouse wanted to personally purchase the commercials from Crossroads Media, I’d say have at it! That is not the case. Dallas Woodhouse is funneling money for hidden financiers. It’s the money funneling that bothers me.
This is a situation in which a person, group, or for-profit corporation – those mystery figures who have given money to Carolina Rising – have indirectly gifted millions of dollars to an elected official, and we the public are not allowed to know who they are. This is not a liberal or a conservative “thing;” this is a matter of transparency and accountability to the public. I call upon Dallas Woodhouse to give a public account for where the Tillis millions have come so that the public may be certain that he is not being used as an intermediary for shady activity from financiers.
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