President Obama urged his supporters to sell the Affordable Care Act during this year’s Thanksgiving meal. He received significant criticism from many for what was perceived to be an attempt to inject politics into a time for family and friends. But even the architect of “Health Care for the Holidays” probably would have recoiled from a Thanksgiving Tweet from the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org site as having gone a step too far:
“Got a politically inclined relative at the Thanksgiving table? See which candidates they have supported: opensecrets.org/indivs/”
Putting aside the question of why someone thinks snooping into their relatives’ political activities at the dinner table is remotely good manners, this Tweet nicely summed up how hollow the “follow the money” rhetoric of the pro-regulation side of the disclosure debate is. Here, OpenSecrets.org (an organization whose logo is an unblinking eyeball, like some campaign finance reform edition of the Eye of Sauron) wanted people to “follow the money” not to uncover corruption or influence, but to get information on political giving and use it against family members. While they speak of disclosure as a tool to battle the influence of large donors, pro-regulation organizations seem untroubled (and often encouraged) by the fact that forcing people to disclose even the most picayune political activity and posting that information on a publicly accessible database leaves practically all political donors open to retaliation and coercion by their neighbors, bosses, customers, shop stewards, and even their family. Surely, having a relative blurt out one’s political giving at the Thanksgiving table probably would do little to encourage even modest giving in the future, which was perhaps the intended result. In other words, any “transparency” that resulted from this Tweet almost certainly did not reduce corruption, but it probably helped to ruin at least a few Thanksgivings.