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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Buying your vote through lies, half truths and propaganda...

Traditional candidate based advertising, with full disclosure of donors and regulations to make it clear that the ad comes from and is approved by the candidate and their organizations, may be going the way of the dinosaur.

They may become unimportant or even priced out of the market by highly financed, secretive and yet "socially friendly" sounding special interests groups, immune (thanks to the Supreme Court) from any campaign financing or message reforms passed over the past 110 years.

Attacks on incumbents, Republicans in the primary and Democrats in the general, are not being financed by "the people" or "grass roots America" but by political interests groups, increasingly using shadow organizations with well meaning sounding names, set up exclusively to attack the Obama Administration and influence people into thinking that they are the voice of the "people".

Meanwhile ads for Democratic, and even Republican incumbents, tend to be financed by the campaigns and by legitimate Political Action PACS (such as unions, community groups and so on). These groups, unlike their counterparts, must disclose donations and sources. 

This puts Republicans, Tea Party and special interests at a strong advantage this election year but not in the way that most people think. They money is not primarily form the political party or any open honest movement or group.

The material below is from NPR's Morning Edition.

Most of the ads are negative, sponsored by ambiguously named organizations like "Americans for Job Security" (with their benign sounding but strongly anti-worker and American Jobs stand at a web site titled and "The Commission on Hope Growth and Opportunity."  [While the funds are used entirely for the defeat of Democratic candidates and incumbents, the mission sounds very "safe" "welfare" and states that the group, spending millions on ads is not a political committee.}

Who are those groups?

They are Americans for Job Security and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both are 501(c)s, organized under the tax code as nonprofits.  Both must not pursue politics as their primary function? Both should not take money from foreign nationals for to promote foreign issues, by Federal law. Yet there is no donor disclosure required, not do they disclose the information in the one place where they are asked to disclose, the broadcast licence political advertising forms. Both spend nearily $100,000 per market in the US per week, millions in key states like Nevada
The law says they can't engage in politics as their primary purpose. It also says they can accept unlimited donations and don't have to report their donors. Couple that with the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, and you have a wide-open path for corporate money to flow into partisan politics.
That's what makes these ads different from those by party committees: Candidates and party committees have legal limits on the size of donations they can take from each donor, and they have to report the names and numbers of the donors and how much they gave. It gives context to the ad.

There's almost no context with the noncandidate, nonparty, supposedly nonpolitical groups. But they do have to disclose something — not to voters, but to the TV stations. And whatever they disclose to the TV stations, the stations must disclose to the public. It's the only way to track down how many ads these groups are running and just how much they are spending..

There are also many disclosure forms (see examples in box at NRP web Site) that give less than full disclosure; parts of the form are blank, and that's not atypical.

The group is required to fill in the name of the candidate that the ad is talking about, but it left the field blank. The ads it runs specifically mention the Democratic incumbents being attacked. The group is also supposed to declare whether the ad is talking about a national issue, and if it is, which candidates it names. Americans for Job Security left it blank.
Although the groups are filing their paperwork with stations, they are not taking it seriously. Some answer a few questions; most leave the important lines blank. It's an indication that TV stations can't act as a watchdog of these groups.
For most of these groups, there's almost nothing required in terms of donor disclosure. They can keep their funding sources comfortably hidden. But they are spending amounts of money that were unimaginable just a few years ago.
One group can easily spend $100,000 or more at one [small to medium market] station in a few weeks. Multiply that by four or five local stations in each area, and five or six groups spending at that level, and the amount of money flowing from secret sources to fund attack ads across the nation is easily in the hundreds of millions of dollars. [Look at Nevada, California and New York alone, where heated races have totaled close to or over 100 million in total expenditures by both sides].
The ads ...attacked candidates of both parties, but the ones attacking Republicans were all from Democratic candidates or party committees, groups that have to disclose their donors. Not one ad from the supposedly nonpolitical groups [with no disclosure requirements] attacked a Republican. All of those ads are aimed at Democrats.
This year, in the wake of Citizens United and other court decisions, corporations and rich donors can give as much cash as they like to these groups. But it's unclear who the groups are.
The series is on all week on National Public Radio news, with morning and afternoon separate stories and installments. The local Las Vegas NPR affiliate is KNPR 88-9 FM.


Roy Hardin said...

With politics now days, it makes us wonder who is watching Big Brother? It seems as if any one with the money can buy a politician if the price is right.

Anonymous said...

I think politics have become so disgusting. I can remember being a child and being so enthralled with the process, being so proud to be an American and so exicted to vote. I wanted to be one of those people that excited the masses and helped the unfortunate. I wanted to be that "good" person. Politics are filled with cheaters and liars. If a politician cannot keep a solemn vow to one person, such as their wife, or doesn't have the respect for their wife to speak up and end a marriage...the right way, what makes you think they have any respect for you or I? Or any interest in doing the right thing? Politicians need to go back to one simple value...treat others how you want to be treated. Bet their behavior would change. Furthermore, the amount of money that is spent during a campaign is beyond ridiculous. I think there should no political advertising. If you want to spread your message you should hold town hall meetings that the community can attend. Additionally, you have a nationally televised debate where you can sell yourself. We need more fiscal responsibility from start to finish.--Jaimie Kurtz, Com 101 Monday.