Show us the money now

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The warring factions in the Cedar Rapids casino fight do agree on something.

Neither side plans to release any campaign finance information until it’s absolutely legally necessary. That’s 4:30 p.m.on Feb. 28, just days before the March 5 countywide referendum vote. And that report won’t cover any contributions or spending in the last 10 furious days.

“Right now, we don’t have any plans to release the filings before the deadline,” said Sam Roecker, spokesman for Just Say No Casino and associate of LinkStrategies, the Des Moines firm handling the campaign’s communications and fundraising.

“No, we’re just going to file according to the deadline requirements,” said Marcia Rogers,” spokeswoman for Vote Yes Linn County.

Such heartwarming unity. And yet, there’s been so much bickering about disclosing this or that, I figured more disclosure would be just what we need.

Just Say No demanded that Vote Yes disclose the names of casino investors. This week, most of those investors, 58 of them, were named. A welcome ray of sunshine, but not the same as having hard numbers on who is giving exactly how much to push the referendum to passage.

Then you have Just Say No, which wants to have it both ways in the disclosure game. Opponents demand the names of casino investors, while refusing to say, now, who is giving how much to defeat the casino. They’re also trying hard to convince us that local folks passionately warning us of the evils of gambling are entirely separate from the no campaign’s Des Moines operation, which is getting bucks from current casino operators fearing competition. How much? Who knows?

Whether you see that as a broad coalition or an unholy alliance, we’re not going to see the details from either camp until the referendum campaign is all but over.

It’s a lousy way to run a democracy. State laws should be changed. Voters deserve to know early and often who is paying for pricey efforts to win their votes. We’re tired of guessing games.

But there’s nothing in those campaign finance laws that says campaigns can’t release finance reports at any time they please. They could show voters today. Instead, they’ll dump the goods just before a vote and hope the lateness of the hour mutes the splash.

I guess that’s what passes for smart strategy. Keeping voters dumb for as long as possible. I say disclose the numbers and let the chips fall where they may.

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