Editorials: For Political Closure, We Need Disclosure | Warren Rudman & Chuck Hegel/ NYTimes.com

Since the beginning of the current election cycle, extremely wealthy individuals, corporations and trade unions — all of them determined to influence who is in the White House next year — have spent more than $160 million (excluding party expenditures). That’s an incredible amount of money. To put it in perspective, at this point in 2008, about $36 million had been spent on independent expenditures (independent meaning independent of a candidate’s campaign). In all of 2008, in fact, only $156 million was spent this way. In other words, we’ve already surpassed 2008, and it’s July. In the near term, there’s nothing we can do to reverse this dramatic increase in independent expenditures. Yet what really alarms us about this situation is that we can’t find out who is behind these blatant attempts to control the outcome of our elections. We are inundated with extraordinarily negative advertising on television every evening and have no way to know who is paying for it and what their agenda might be. In fact, it’s conceivable that we have created such a glaring loophole in our election process that foreign interests could directly influence the outcome of our elections. And we might not even know it had happened until after the election, if at all.