There are two kinds of elected officials: Those who believe in open government and transparency. And those who do not.
In Mississippi, the latter group is also known as Republicans.
In the Golden Triangle, they are also known as Rep. Gary Chism, Rep. Jeff Smith, Rep. Rob Roberson and Sen. Chuck Younger.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1205, which opens the door for dark money to be poured into our elections.
Prior to this law, the sources behind most of the money raised by politicians and political groups were publicly disclosed. Candidates, parties and political action committees — including the super PACs that are allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money — all reported the names of their donors to the Federal Election Commission (for federal elections) or the Secretary of State’s office (for state elections) on a regular basis.
When the source of political money isn’t known, that’s dark money.
In 2018, the U.S. Treasury and Internal Revenue Service announced that nonprofits with 501(c) status would not longer be required to disclose the names and addresses of their donors on tax documents.
However, the policy change did not apply to reporting requirements for 501(c)(4) organizations, such as Americans for Prosperity, Organizing for Action, the National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood.
That, we assumed, was a step too far.
But it wasn’t a step too far for the Republicans in the Mississippi Legislature.
HB 1205, which passed strictly along party lines, now allows any and all organizations with any kind of 501(c) status to contribute money to political campaigns without revealing their identity.
We are disgusted by this bill, and especially disappointed in our local legislators who voted for it.
Our position is simple: Voters have a right to know who is funding our candidates’ campaigns. If a candidate is getting money from Planned Parenthood or Americans for Prosperity, that says something about that candidates’ positions. It also informs us if a candidate is beholding to interests outside the state or if his campaign is funded by his fellow Mississippians.
Why anyone, regardless of party, would think it’s a good idea to deny the voters that knowledge is difficult to fathom.
So shame on you, Gary Chism.
Shame on you, Jeff Smith
Shame on you, Rob Roberson.
Shame on you, Chuck Younger.
Your vote ensures our political campaigns will be corrupted by dark money.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.