Disclosure of campaign finance sources the right thing | TheUnion.com

Disclosure of campaign finance sources the right thing

Candidates in Nevada County this year have an opportunity to voluntarily establish a new standard for disclosure of campaign donations. We are eager to see who will step forward.

As the costs of local campaigns grows – the $100,000 race for county supervisor isn’t unknown – the potential influence of those who can pony up big dollars grows, too.

Who is paying the costs of campaigns, and what do they expect in return? It’s a key question each voter needs to ask about candidates and ballot issues.

State and federal authorities have struggled for years to find a way to control campaign finance, but every effort founders on the shoals of the First Amendment protection of the right of people to express their political views.

Current financial reports lag contributions. Last-minute contributions aren’t disclosed until long after the polls are closed.

The answer, it appears, is full and fast disclosure. We now have a mechanism – the Internet – that allows fast disclosure of information.

In western Nevada County, we have a community that is estimated to be more than 70 percent wired. Our libraries allow access to the Internet for the rest of us.

If campaign committees were to post the names of their financial donors and the amounts they’ve given within a reasonable time – say, 48 hours – Nevada County voters would be well-served.

There’s almost no chance this will become a legal requirement. State and federal lawmakers are too snarled in their own money-raising efforts.

But doing the right thing doesn’t need to be legally required. Full and quick disclosure can be provided because it allows voters to make better decisions and because candidates decide they have nothing to hide.

All it will take is a decision by one major candidate to voluntarily disclose contributions quickly and completely. Once that decision is announced, other candidates either must fall quickly into line or face questions about their unwillingness to provide useful information to voters.

Who among Nevada County’s candidates will stand up first?

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