Monday, January 16, 2012

Ads Should Reveal Individuals Funding Electioneering


The US Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission (2010),
Citizens United [the group] argues that the disclaimer requirements in §311* are unconstitutional as applied to its ads. It contends that the governmental interest in providing information to the electorate does not justify requiring disclaimers for any commercial advertisements, including the ones at issue here. We [the court] disagree. . . . At the very least, the disclaimers avoid confusion by making clear that the ads are not funded by a candidate or political party.**
I wrote last week about new rules in Washington State regarding disclosure with electioneering and how recent court rulings can be guides for greater transparency. Washington State laws require the sponsor of political ads appear in the media. The sponsor needs to be an actual human being and not a happy-name smokescreen hiding big money donors. This week I suggest how disclosure rules with federal races need to be modeled on Washington law.

A big story in the horse race coverage of the GOP presidential primary is how much media the so-called super PACs are buying. While it takes a simple visit to Open Secrets to find out who's funding these campaign tools, federal laws about electioneering and disclosure are still behind in serving transparency. Here's a typical ad, and please take note of the last few seconds:

Does it really help to know that a happy-name front group has bought yet another political ad? The disclaimer at the end should instead say, "Sheldon Adelson is responsible for the content of this message". It has been reported Mr. Adelson gave $5 million to the super PAC Winning Our Future that is funding these ads supporting the Newt Gingrich campaign for president.

According to the Citizens United ruling, which paved the way for the creation of the super PACs, voters need to be aware of who is funding electioneering as, ". . . transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages."

Why not also have an actual image of the largest contributor to a super PAC within the disclaimer?  Perhaps then the big donors could think twice before paying for political ads that plaster their own name and face all over the media. At the very least, voters will know who really paid for the ad.

* Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act section 311 contains a disclaimer provision for electioneering communications. The entity responsible for the communication, if not authorized by the candidate or the candidate’s political committee, must contain a statement that the organization “is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

** p 52


  1. Shazam for political ads would be neat, nice first step.

  2. hey Krist, truly sorry to rudely butt into your political blog, but I reallllly wanted to get ahold of you. I'd love to share my friend Gabe's music with you. He reminds me in some weird way of a latino version of Kurt, lol. Please let me know what you think. I'm curious. Love, Melissa
    That last link is to my Youtube page. You can find a couple more of Gabe's songs there.

  3. Hi Krist, I am still up in the air on this Citizens ruling but currently see the ruling as a plus. My problem is Newspapers have done a great job promoting and protecting this administration but have failed to deliver any critical news for the last 3 years. Maybe these commercials will raise the questioning of all the failures of this group of Chicago thugs in Washington. WHERE IS THE WHITE HOUSE PRESS?

    I begin to wonder whether NBC, MSNBC, CNN, etc. will refuse to run an Super-Pac commercial that is critical of this president. Will GE (owner of MSNBC, an arm of the DNC) clearly backing the D's, refuse to run an ad that does not promote their agenda?

    I welcome the over-the-top ads focused on the political corruption of BOTH PARTIES. The ruling also levels the field with greedy public unionistas and corporations. Bring it on.

  4. Good read, I'm glad to see people who actually present and know what they're talking about, and always good to see where our media actually comes from opposed to being accepting drones. Average American should think about this stuff but more than not they really don't. I still blame the older generation, however, it's easy to see this generation isn't as connected as it should be either to form a public uprising or at least solid opinion. Words alone hold very little power scattered all over the place. I'd love to hear a political musicians opinion on SOPA and PIPA.