Full disclosure: Sorry, but there is no such thing

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Someday, maybe, pollution will disappear, cancer will be cured and all formerly bald men will have hair.

Well, we can dream, can’t we? And before we awaken to today’s ugly realities, let’s envision a time when motives are as clear as a bright spring day on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

According to an op-ed piece penned by local Republican leader Brent Regan, the Reclaim Idaho “grassroots” effort that put Prop 2 over the top isn’t quite what it claimed. According to the op-ed, the “grassroots” organization was largely financed by California union interests that paid for many thousands of the signatures required to get the measure on the ballot. Idaho feet on the street, maybe, but the green that fueled the machine was big bucks from outsiders, according to Regan.

Reclaim Idaho fired back, saying 96 percent of the campaign was paid for by Idahoans fighting for a cause they fully believe in.

Now, to some, it’s no big deal either way. If the idea was right — that the Idaho Legislature had long shirked their responsibilities by refusing to expand Medicaid — who cares where the financing came from to git ‘er done? George Soros or George Bush or Curious George helped pay for it? Who gives a rip?

The bigger picture is disturbing, regardless. Whether it’s Reclaim Idaho or Regan’s Idaho Freedom Foundation or countless PACs, all sorts of obfuscation games are played. Hiding the money isn’t an exception. It’s par for the political course.

Two of the emptiest words in our language are “full disclosure.” Full disclosure is like disappearing pollution and magically appearing hair. In Idaho and the rest of this otherwise great nation, full disclosure is a dream bearing no semblance to reality. The culprit is less the fault of candidates running for state and national positions and more the rotten system of funneling campaign dollars through networks of tunnels that would put a planet of ant farms to shame.

With very few exceptions, full disclosure doesn’t exist. Campaign finance laws were constructed to ensure blindness from as many vantage points as possible. And, frankly, most newspapers do a poor job of jumping into all the rabbit holes and tracing the sources of funding that prop up local legislators and many others seeking the power of public office. It’s an especially challenging exercise because no matter what journalists find, campaign finance laws guarantee the public still sees only part of the picture.

And that’s the way it’s going to stay until the public demands otherwise — which will happen the same day everyone agrees on abortion and global warming.

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