Karl Rove compares SuperPAC donors he wants to keep secret to Rosa Parks.

Right now, PACs and many big political donors are allowed to remain anonymous.  This breed of donor significantly alters the landscape of elections.

This election year, secret money played a bigger role than in any other presidential campaign since Richard Nixon’s. The nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation says secretly funded groups spent well over $200 million. And four-fifths of it helped Republicans.

So it’s not surprising that conservatives want to keep donors’ identities secret. They say it’s essential to safeguard donors from harassment and intimidation.

“Harassment and intimidation” in this case is euphemistic for being boycotted for supporting legislation and legislators that benefit the donors but hose most of the population.  They want to be like Chick-Fil-A, but without the possibility of public backlash.  But lest you think that the conservatives are trying to keep their huge-dollar donors secret out of self-interest, Karl Rove is here to assure us (and the courts) that they’re actually noble defenders of civil rights.

Rove, whose group Crossroads GPS was a leader in the secret fundraising, says disclosure advocates have a hidden agenda.

“They want to intimidate people into not giving to … these conservative efforts,” he said on Fox News.

And here is where Rove and Parks cross paths: In defending secret money, Rove invokes that Supreme Court case, NAACP v. Alabama. He lines up Crossroads GPS on the same side as Parks and the NAACP, and he says the transparency advocates make the same argument as the segregationists.

“I think it’s shameful,” Rove said. “I think it’s a sign of their fear of democracy. And it’s interesting that they have antecedents, and the antecedents are a bunch of segregationist attorney generals trying to shut down the NAACP.”

Thank you, GOP, for standing up for equality.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Loqi

    I salute you, noble defenders of the opressed, caretakers of the downtrodden, benefactors of the poor and sick. It is because of your steadfast determination to make sure nobody knows how much money you have and what you’re spending it on that we can truly be free.
    *fade to an image of a young soldier (white and male, naturally) saluting with a tear in his eye and a steely resolve on his face set against an American flag backdrop with a bald eagle screeching “Proud to be an American”*

  • Randomfactor

    If they want to be like Rosa Parks, they should stand up by name to be counted.

    • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

      You appear to be using literal history. According True American History, they tried to make her stand at the front of the bus to be counted and she courageously hid at the back so nobody could tell who she was, what she was doing, and how many millions she was giving to anti-Civil Rights causes.

  • smrnda

    It ought to be full public knowledge what plutocrats are buying our government, since money can easily subvert the democratic process. The people who oppose this secrecy are not against democracy, they are for preventing ‘democracy’ from meaning ‘those who can afford to buy the government get a say in politics.’

    • Nate Frein

      Honestly, all donations to any organization should be public record, period.

      • smrnda

        Agreed, I should have worded it better, though do you think this might backfire? What if my hypothetical evangelical Christian boss looks me up and finds out that I support GLBT causes, and decides that he’s going to find some sneaky and underhanded way to get me fired so he won’t *indirectly* through paying me money support this? I mean, I see the point of what you are saying – I’d like to know whose giving to lots of organizations, but I just wanted some thoughts.

      • IslandBrewer

        The problem isn’t really anonymous donations to any organization, however. Anyone should have a right to anonymously donate to guide dogs for the blind, feed the children, GLBT causes, or even white supremist hate organizations anonymously.

        The problem with SuperPacs is that they fund campaign speech, and circumvent campaign funding laws, with unlimited donations (the “unlimited” part is FAR more problematic than the anonymity). Despite laws that restrict campaign donations and impose spending limits in elections, Citizens United has effectively erased all those laws, and anyone can anonymously pour as much money as they want into whatever race they want.

        • John Horstman

          (the “unlimited” part is FAR more problematic than the anonymity)

          Of course, any reasonable definition of “anonymity” implies unlimited donations – if the money is not connected to individual persons or legal constructs like corporations, there can be no possibility of oversight to limit the amount an individual person or other entity can contribute. Anonymous contributions to political groups are problematic.

          As for the larger point, I’m not sure I agree that anyone should have the right to spend or even donate money anonymously. While I don’t think money is speech (nor that corporations, as legal constructs in the form or frameworks to mediate myriad contracts between a group of people, are entitled to rights guaranteed to people), I think it follows that as we’re not entitled to anonymous speech, we shouldn’t by default be entitled to anonymous spending. That is to say, we can’t guarantee a positive right to anonymous speech or spending (nor should we try – this makes corruption WAY too easy/appealing/low-risk), though we should be careful when mandating a lack of anonymity; this is a good case in which to mandate accountability.

        • baal

          I’m ok with anon speech but only so far as it’s personal. Somehow, when the average US salary is in the low tens of thousands of dollars per year, giving millions just doesn’t seem like a personal act. I’d have a total dollar / year disclosure that kicks in at $100,000 (total not 100k to 100 ‘different’ groups) in giving and use the IRS tax forms (reporting cash flow?) as the mechanism.

          ““They want to intimidate people into not giving to … these conservative efforts,” he said on Fox News.””
          Yes Karl, your peeps are getting negative blowback for some generic ‘conservative efforts’ rather than endless bigotry and attempts to control everyone else’s sex and personal lives.

  • IslandBrewer

    “Of course, any reasonable definition of “anonymity” implies unlimited donations – if the money is not connected to individual persons or legal constructs like corporations, there can be no possibility of oversight to limit the amount an individual person or other entity can contribute. Anonymous contributions to political groups are problematic.”

    Let me back up a little. I think we agree more than we disagree on a lot of this issue, but let me just dissect out my opinion. (1) Corporations are not people – any right to anonymity should not extend to institutions. (2) Money is not speech, and one should be able to legislatively restrict it with any reasonable argument. (3) Political speech may be regulated. I’m pretty much a free speech maximist when it comes to constitutional views, but there are areas (eg., commercial speech, political speech) where regulation should happen and doesn’t impact personal rights of free speech.

    That being said, while I’ll agree that anonymity might embolden a donor to donate to vile and nefarious ends without consequences, I believe that it’s still an important for an individual to maintain privacy of his donations as much as it’s important to have secret ballots. Donations to campaigns can be harder to regulate, but it’s not impossible. Hell, they’d been doing it prior to the Citizen’s United decision reasonably well. In the same way that odious speech is the price we pay for free speech, odious anonymous conduct is the price we pay for preventing repercussions for those who want to support, say, LGBT rights in a small conservative town, or a democratic campaign in a red state.


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