Washington

Super PACs in Crosshairs On Election Dollars Fight

Groups attempting to cut flow of cash take aim at Citizens United ad spot windfall 1/23/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Broadcast and cable outlets have long been anticipating
the heart of the presidential campaign season and its attendant
new, big money. But a
number of efforts have been
launched that could eat into that
windfall.

The occasion is the second
anniversary of the Citizens United
decision. That’s the Supreme
Court ruling that permits corporations
and unions to fund electioneering
ads—for and against
candidates—in the run-up to
election primaries, which has
led to the rise of the so-called
super PACs that have pumped
more money into the system.

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Among other things, a proposed
bill would require the
funders of TV and radio spots to
put “stand by your ad” IDs listing
the actual funders of the ads.
Right now, the “Citizens for Truth and Beauty” super PAC-type names
are the only on-air requirement, though the PACs must report their
source of funding to the Federal Election Commission. This could
discourage some of that spending, reducing the flow of super PAC
dollars.

The Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for open government, is
proposing a modified version of the Disclose Act that would retain the
disclosure provisions of that failed legislative attempt to counter the
Citizens United decision.

The Supreme Court decision was a financial boon to ad-supported
media. According to Open Secrets, which tracks campaign spending,
as of Jan. 17, there are 278 so-called super PACs that have spent more
than $26 million already in the 2012 cycle, based on just-released
FEC data.

According to Sunlight, TV station
executives in South Carolina
say that super PACs had been
outspending the candidates for
the Jan. 21 primary and “dominating
the airwaves.”

The Citizens United decision
was also hailed as a First
Amendment win for campaign
speech in some quarters. But
critics, including Sunshine
Foundation, argue it had a corrupting
influence on the system
by allowing for secret corporate
expenditures.

The Disclose Act was an attempt
by primarily Democratic
opponents of the decision to
force more disclosure of who
was behind the super PACs funneling that new money into the system.
It passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2010, but got no further.

The foundation has scheduled a Jan. 23 event on Capitol Hill to
discuss the new bill, which it is calling the Stop Undisclosed Payments
in Elections From Ruining Public Accountability in Campaigns (SUPERPAC)
Act.

The Sunlight effort was announced the same day that Common
Cause launched an effort to get Congress to pass a constitutional
amendment reversing Citizens United. Common Cause, U.S. PIRG and
others are also pushing to get shareholders to file resolutions opposing
use of corporations’ money for super PACs.

E-mail
comments to
jeggerton@nbmedia.com
and follow him on
Twitter: @eggerton

 

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