Huff, Mimi and Wyland block Lou’s “DISCLOSE Act” – Why do Republicans hate transparency?

It’s a question I keep not getting an answer to, try as I may.  I mean, the Republicans I know here in the OC, my Republican friends on this blog and on some City Councils, they’re ALL ABOUT transparency.  So how come you guys keep getting represented in Sacramento by asshats like Bob Huff, Mimi Walters and Mark Wyland, who, AS A BIG DUMB BLOCK, stand squarely in the way of it?

Okay, here’s what happened.  On Monday, St Patrick’s Day, Lou Correa nearly passed a crucial amendment, SB 27,* that will clear the way for his fine transparency bill, the DISCLOSE Act, which we’ve written about here before.  He was proud of the “bipartisan support” he got in the Assembly (three Republican assemblymen doing the right thing.)  But now that Democrats have lost two crooked Senators (ok our bad) and no longer have the 2/3 necessary to pass a bill like this one (because any bill amending California’s “Political Reform Act” requires 2/3) the 14 Senate Reeps have swung their mighty dicks to stop the worthy bill in its tracksBut why?

For a while, the standard Republican argument against reforms like the DISCLOSE Act had been that openness and transparency “scares” “legitimate” players in the political process from participating.  Perhaps it’s progress that Republicans have stopped using THAT lame-ass, embarrassing line.  How legitimate and innocent and sympathetic is a wealthy donor who insists on either remaining in the shadows or else ditching politics?

NOW the Republicans’ story is that this bill IS a really good idea, except just not SO SOON!  It would take effect at the beginning of July, and they say that doesn’t give these deep-pocketed mystery donors ENOUGH TIME to get used to the new rules.  “Pshaw!” spits Lou at that BS, and I stand foursquare behind him spitting, “Pshaw!”  I’m reminded of Anaheim kleptos who sang the praise of district elections, just as long as they could be studied for several years and then not happen for a few years after that.  Republicans sound like they’re wanting JUST ONE LAST GRAND ELECTION with big, mysterious, dark money donors.  Just ONE LAST ONE, for old time’s sake!?

OUR problems here in the OC are Huff, Walters and Wyland.  Huff, the Senate Minority leader who sends out the marching orders, simply Abstained from the vote (which in this case has exactly the same effect as voting no.)  His (in)actions can no doubt be ascribed to a combination of his usual Rectal Valium and the leadership of an Obstructionist Caucus.  Mimi was one of the ONLY FOUR with the stones to actually vote NO on your right to know, but I’ve been stonewalled in my attempts to get a reason from her people, as they probably consider this blog to be the very Cat’s Paw of Satan.

Senator Mark Wyland, on the other hand, likes this blog, and his spokesman tried to put the best face on his boss’ recalcitrance.  “Mark actually was out of town during that vote, but if he’d been in Sacramento, he probably would have voted no.” 

“Really, why?” 

“He wants the amendment.” 

“What amendment?” 

“The Republicans think this is a good bill, but that it shouldn’t take effect until January of next year, NOT this July.” 

“Oh.  AFTER the 2014 election.”

“Right.  It’s just not fair to donors who have already started giving to this year’s campaigns, or started planning on it, it’s not fair to change the rules in the middle of the election season.”

“Well… but they have to have known this bill has been coming down the pike for months.  Years maybe.  Plus, it doesn’t apply to donations before July 1 when it takes effect.”

“Yeah, well… that’s how the law works.”

[Pause on Vern’s end.]  “Do you know how this sounds?  Like all you Republicans, including Mark, want there to be one more season of huge, anonymous, untrackable donations.  And also, we’re supposed to feel sorry for these people who insist on influencing things from the shadows, we’re supposed to feel sorry for them that we’re making them follow new rules.”

Wyland’s guy didn’t sound real comfortable or convinced with the line he had to spin.  I signed off with, “Well, let Mark know I disagree and I hope he changes his mind.”

SB 27 is only one vote short in the Senate – it only needs one Republican Senator to change his or her mind.  And Lou has until the end of the legislative season, in August, to make it happen, and not revert to square one – he hasn’t decided what to do yet.  Mark Wyland is leaving politics, driven out of the BOE race by Diane Harkey’s nastiness and superior funding, exactly like John Moorlach was driven out of politics by Mimi Walters’ nastiness and superior funding.   He says he wants to devote his time and energy instead to an education foundation he started a few years ago.  It seems like maybe he doesn’t need to worry too much about whatever horrible punishments the Republican Party visits upon its members who don’t toe the line.

I see two possibilities for SB 27 and the DISCLOSE Act this year:  One Republican Senator with a conscience – possibly Mark Wyland – could join the rest of the senate and the vast majority of public opinion and give us a more transparent 2014 election – one not marred by the undisclosed donations laundered through “elaborate networks of nonprofits” by secretive out-of-state groups which marred the 2012 cycle.  This could be the parting gift of a guy like, for example, Mark Wyland, as he exited the dirty world of politics.

OR if the spring and summer drag on with no Republican doing the right thing, Correa might as well bite the bullet and accept that Republican amendment; then at least we’ll have cleaner elections starting in 2016, without having to start from scratch all over.  But then a 2014 cycle marred by dark secretive money would be the final gift of … MARK WYLAND as he left politics.   And it would be a gift ONLY appreciated by the sort of interests who like or need to hide their identity.  People he shouldn’t really need as he moves on into his educational work.

It seems the ball is in Senator Wyland’s court.

Senator Mark Wyland
(949) 489-9838
(916) 651-4038

Oh, right.  That question I kept asking before:  Why do Republicans hate transparency?  We still haven’t really got around to answering it.   I know, I phrase it provocatively, in the tradition of “Why do you hate America / puppies / baby seals etc.”  But why is it REALLY that bills like the DISCLOSE Act tend to be opposed nearly unanimously by Republicans and backed nearly unanimously by Democrats?

I can’t see another reason than the following, although I’m all ears:  The interests Republicans represent (in Sacramento and Washington at least) are ones that require secrecy because they are RIGHTLY REVILED BY THE PUBLIC:  your big energy billionaires, your polluters, your alcohol and tobacco, your insurance and bankers.  What am I missing?

Call Mark.


*NOTE:  The first version of this story mistakenly conflated two bills – The DISCLOSE Act which is SB 52; and SB 27 which is an amendment to the Political Reform Act of 1974, necessary to make the DISCLOSE Act possible.  SB 27 is the one that Senate Republicans defeated on Monday, and the one we need to ask Mark, Bob and Mimi to vote yes on.  And of course we need BOTH 27 and 52.

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.