The Truth in Propaganda Act

| Tue Apr. 13, 2010 10:18 AM EDT

Barack Obama has apparently decided on a plan to fight back against the Citizens United decision that allows corporations a nearly unlimited ability to spend money in political campaigns:

The White House and leading Democrats in Congress are close to proposing legislation that would force private companies and groups to disclose their behind-the-scenes financial involvement in political campaigns and advertising, officials involved in the discussions said Monday. One provision would require the chief executive of any company or group that is the main backer of a campaign advertisement to personally appear in television and radio spots to acknowledge the sponsorship, the officials said.

Well, corporations can already spend unlimited sums on initiative campaigns in California, and I wouldn't mind seeing a law like this in place here. Sort of a corporate version of the "I approve this message" that we require from actual human candidates.

My current bête noire is Proposition 16, a slimy little initiative called the "Taxpayers Right to Vote Act." (Great name, isn't it?) It's the brainchild of Pacific Gas & Electric, which is outraged by the effrontery of public utilities that compete with it and wants to require a two-thirds vote before any public utility would be allowed to launch or expand its public power service. You probably couldn't get a two-thirds vote in most places to pass a Mothers Day resolution, so Prop 16 effectively shuts down PG&E's competitors completely.

Their current ad is narrated by the most reasonable looking soccer mom you've ever laid eyes on, and it's in heavy rotation financed by PG&E's millions. The opposition, ironically, isn't allowed to really oppose the measure at all since public utilities aren't allowed to spend public money on political campaigns. Sweet, isn't it? There's nothing much to be done about that, but it would be nice to even the scales just a wee bit by requiring Peter Darbee to append his corporate mug to the end of every one of those ads and say "I'm the chairman of PG&E and I approve this message." People ought to know just whose pocketbook is being lined here, after all.