GOP Chairman: “I Am Absolutely for Transparency”

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Readers will know that a central debate in the closing weeks of the 2010 campaign has to do with anonymous campaign contributions to independent political groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads, and whether the names of people and corporations giving those cash donations ought to be made public. That would require a change in the law–one that it sounds like chairman of the Republican National Committee at least implicitly endorsed on “Meet the Press” yesterday.

MR. GREGORY:  [A]re you concerned that because, as you know, there are laws that you do not have to disclose.  That’s the question.  Is that a problem in our politics when you can put a great deal of money into a campaign without disclosing your agenda or who you are?

MR. STEELE:  Well, OK, David, that’s a fair question….

MR. GREGORY:  You said put up or shut up, that’s the issue.

MR. STEELE:  Then the Congress needs to–then the put up part by the Congress would be to change the law.  But the law is what it is right now, and everybody’s compliant with the law.  And if the law does not require disclosure of certain individuals or information, then…

MR. GREGORY:  I’m asking whether you think–there are certainly candidates running who are Republicans who think there ought to be more transparency. Ken Buck from Colorado thinks that you should definitely say where the money comes from if you’re getting it in a campaign.

MR. STEELE:  Absolute–I–David, absolutely.  I’m always–I’m–at the end of the day, I agree with–I am absolutely all for transparency.  It’s–I think it’s an appropriate part of the system.  It instills the trust that people have in the system, and it also avoids questions like this because that, that information is out there. And it’s absolutely will avoid the, the allegations and the charges just thrown out there in the middle of a, of a, of a, of a discussion about health care and the economy.

Steele’s defense of the principle of disclosure breaks with the current conservative line, often expressed by the Chamber, that disclosure “squelches speech” because it risks donors being harassed, intimidated and even “threatened with violence.”

Of course, Steele’s inefficacy fueled the rise of the new conservative political groups, so they may not be terribly interested in his opinion.