Debate Forum Topic 10/27/10

Should Those Negative Political Ads Be Funded By Anonymous Donors?

This is the season for those much-maligned political attack ads that fill our television screens. In many cases, the disclaimers on the ads indicate they are paid for by the candidate’s campaign committee or a by political party. In those instances, the donors who contributed the money driving those ads are disclosed in the campaign financial reports which are required by election law to be periodically filed during the campaign. However, there are also attack ads being funded and run by non-profit groups, which can then pump that money into campaigns without revealing any donor names. The Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United, earlier this year, has opened the door for this practice.

Now, groups can open these non-profit groups, known as 527 Committees after the section in the IRS code under which authority they may be established, and legally solicit from donors who will remain anonymous. They can then run these campaign ads attacking candidates whom they oppose without revealing the source of the contributions. For liberal groups, the moving force for their 527 organizations has been George Soros. These groups first appeared in the 2004 and 2006 election cycles and really hit their stride during the 2008 presidential election. During the last presidential election the Democratic Party and candidate Barack Obama benefited from the organizations as money poured into these 527s, like Move On, at record rates. This year it is the conservative 527s that are raising large sums of anonymous money to the benefit of Republican and conservative candidates.

The Court’s decision has benefited American Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both of which qualify under the ruling and are exempt from naming names. The Chamber has said it could spend as much as $75 million this election year and most of that is going to Republicans. Karl Rove is one of the founders of American Crossroads GPS, which just announced that it will spend over $60 million in the final weeks of the mid-term election campaign on House races.

Now with groups from both sides of the political aisle raising anonymous donations and with the airwaves filled with attack ads, Americans who quickly grow tired of the attack ads and negative ads are asking:

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:

Should these 527 organizations be allowed to raise money from anonymous donors and then use that money to advocate for or against a political candidate or political issue?


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