Former RNC chair Michael Steele flip-flops, now says he supports full financial disclosure in elections

Updated
By Jordan Michael Smith

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said on Tuesday night that he supports financial disclosure in elections. “I think there should be full disclosure,” Steele said when host Chris Matthews said he couldn’t understand why he was defending television ads funded by anonymous donors.

But when the landmark Supreme Court case Citizens United was decided in January 2010, permitting unlimited donations to political action committees, Steele, who was then-RNC chair said he supported the decision. “Today’s decision by the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC, serves as an affirmation of the constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first amendment,” Steele said. “Free speech strengthens our democracy.”

In fact, Steele’s main complaint with the court’s decision was that it didn’t go far enough in removing some of the few regulations that exist on financing national elections. “We need to encourage a vibrant debate on the issues, and not restrict the free exchange of ideas,” he said. “Though there is still more work to be done, we are pleased with today’s ruling.”   

The Citizens United decision so profoundly transformed the political landscape that the percentage of donations coming from groups that did not disclose their donors exploded from from 1 percent in the 2006 midterm elections to 47 percent in the 2010 midterms, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.

Moreover, in October of 2010, Steele explicitly denied that anonymous donors were a problem. “I don’t know that it is, so far,” he said on Meet the Press. “I mean, I haven’t seen any evidence that it is. Why are you saying it’s a problem?”

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Michael Steele and Campaign Finance

Former RNC chair Michael Steele flip-flops, now says he supports full financial disclosure in elections

Updated