Blog — Campaign Finance Reform
It takes a jester to expose our campaign finance system as a joke. This past weekend, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow (aka The Definitely Not Coordinated With Stephen Colbert Super PAC) ran television ads in South Carolina alleging former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is a serial killer. Clearly, he’s not.
While Mr. Colbert plays for laughs, the joke is on the voters who are subjected to similarly misleading (although admittedly less over the top) ads from other super PACs as a result of the disastrous Citizens United decision. This coming Saturday marks the two-year anniversary of the misguided Supreme Court ruling that opened the floodgates, allowing unlimited corporate money to pour into our elections.
Today, the Washington Post highlighted the incredible donations flowing to super PACs in the Palmetto State, including what may be a record-breaking five million dollar donation to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich made by Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul.
While Mr. Adelson is an extreme example, he is certainly not alone. As the Post notes:
In total, these new and unrestrained political action committees spent more than $15 million supporting GOP candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire and are now outspending the official campaigns in South Carolina by 2 to 1, according to advertising and expenditure data.
Many of the wealthy donors to the super PACs will remain anonymous until January 31st, when reports must be filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). The date conveniently falls after the Florida primary, by which point the Republican nomination likely will be all but locked up. At that point, knowing who paid for misleading ads in early primary states and why they did probably won’t have much impact.
Super PACs, including those supporting candidates in the upcoming primaries, often have innocuous names such as Restore Our Future, a pro-Romney super PAC that has spent over $7 million so far this primary season. At least super PACs eventually have to tell you who donated and how much they gave – unless of course they pass the donations through a nonprofit organized under section 501(c)4 of the tax code, which allows donors to remain anonymous. The 501(c)(4) groups won’t just pass on donations, they likely will run ads themselves. In the 2010 cycle, the American Action Network spent $18 million on ads supporting Republican congressional candidates. When CREW scrutinized AAN’s tax filings, we found the so-called “network” got most of its money from only three donors.
In the midst of all this chaos, the agency tasked with enforcing campaign finance law, the FEC, appears to be sitting the election out. That’s why CREW has called on President Obama to take action while there is still time. We’ve asked the president to appoint new commissioners to the FEC who will vigorously enforce our election laws. We’ve created a White House petition, and if we gather 25,000 signatures, the administration must respond.
Add your voice to the growing chorus of Americans who believe our elections should be about the candidates with the best ideas – not the most money. Sign our petition here.
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