In theory, the one thing just about everyone involved in the political process says they believe in is the disclosure of campaign contributions. Even the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, in its controversial Citizens United case that opened the door to unlimited campaign spending by businesses and labor unions, eloquently made that point:
"Transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages," the court majority declared.
The problem is that there are a lot of smart -- some would say sneaky -- people involved in political campaigns who have figured out ways to make the transparency of disclosure about as transparent as the mud-brown water that washes down the Santa Clara River during floods.
Sometimes, however, with a careful detective work it is still possible to follow the money. Sacramento political consultant Steve Maviglio, deconstructing the financing behind an independent expenditure campaign, passes along this step-by-step explanation of how money from Chevron and Philip Morris found its way this spring into the 19th Senate District campaign.
First, Chevron gives $375,000 and Philip Morris $50,000 to JobsPAC, the political arm of the California Chamber of Commerce, here.
Then JobsPAC gives $255,000 to the California Now Independent Expenditure Committee here.
Then the California Now Independent Expenditure Committee gives $220,000 to the California Senior Advocates League PAC here.
Then the California Senior Advocates League PAC spends $475,000 on independent expenditures this month seeking to influence five state Senate races, including the 19th District, here.
There. Aren't you glad that the transparency of disclosure enables the electorate to make informed decisions?