Washington — A number of efforts are launching that
could take some of the new, big money out of the presidential
campaign season, a windfall that has boosted the bottom lines
of broadcast and cable outlets.
The occasion is the second anniversary of the Citizens
United decision, the Supreme Court ruling that permits
corporations and unions to fund electioneering ads — for
and against candidates — in the run-up to election primaries.
Citizens United led to the rise of the so-called Super
PACs that have pumped money into the system.
Among other things, some organizations are calling for
groups that fund TV and radio political spots to put “stand
by your ad” IDs listing the actual funders of the ads, rather
the opaque monikers (such as “Citizens for Truth and
Beauty”) that are now the only on-air requirement. (Still,
PACs must report their source of funding to the Federal
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.
That 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 socalled
Super PACs that have spent more than $26 million
already in the 2012 cycle, based on just-released Federal
Election Committee data.
According to Sunlight, TV station execs in South Carolina
said that Super PACs have 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 the Sunshine Foundation, have argued
that allowing for secret corporate expenditures have
made Super PACs a corrupting influence on the system.
The DISCLOSE Act was an attempt by primarily Democratic
opponents of the decision to force more disclosure of
who was funneling the new SuperPAC money into the political
system. It passed the Democrat-controlled House in
2010, but got no further.
The foundation has scheduled an event on Capitol Hill today
(Jan. 23) to discuss how it wants Congress to act on what
it calls the Stop Undisclosed Payments in Elections from Ruining
Public Accountability in Campaigns (SUPERPAC) Act.
According to the foundation, the ideal bill would:
• Ensure disclosure of donors who fund independent expenditures
and electioneering communications made by
Super PACs or other 501(c) organizations. Donors giving
to an organization for other purposes may remain anonymous
if the organization establishes separate accounts
for non-election related spending.
• Require real-time, online disclosure of all reports.
Data must be in searchable, sortable, machine-readable
formats and reports must include unique IDs for all filers.
• Require disclaimers (stand-by-your-ad statements)
and identification of top funders in the ad.
• Require registered lobbyists to report spending on independent
expenditures and electioneering
• Require all candidates
and committees to file electronically
with the Federal
Also launched last week were
efforts by Common Cause for a
Constitutional Amendment reversing
Citizens United, and a
push by Common Cause, the
U.S. Public Interest Research
Group and others to get shareholders
to file resolutions
opposing use of corporate
money for Super PACS.