Tsunami Coming of Corporate Political Ads

BlogHer Original Post

Today the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, overuled major campaign finance laws to allow unlimited corporate spending on political advertising near elections.

With the 2010 elections fast approaching, this means that you can expect a veritable tsunami of political advertisements coming your way, funded by the likes of Exxon, Pfizer, and ConAgra. And with the current state of campaign finance disclosure, we may not even know who is spending what on behalf of whom until far too long after the fact.

In its ruling, the court asserted that corporations have the same right to political free speech that living, breathing individuals do--and that, as such, they shouldn't be limited on how much they can spend on political advertisements.

However, the justices did reaffirm the importance of transparency of how these advertisements are funded, saying: “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions and supporters…This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

The Court also says that “modern technology makes disclosures rapid and informative…A campaign finance system that pairs corporate independent expenditures with effective disclosure has not existed before today.”

That's all well and good, but the fact is we don't have disclosure like the kind the justices are describing. We must demand that we get detailed disclosure of all this new spending within 24 hours. We need the names and addresses of anyone who has given more than $200 in support of the ad disclosed online. In fact, there should be 24-hour online reporting of all contributions of more than $200. The quarterly reporting system now in place is outdated and ineffective. And there's no excuse for it--after all, we can hop on-line to get the latest on real estate prices in our neighborhood, or for some of us what our kid scored on the last math test.

Some in Congress and the White House have already called for campaign finance laws be revamped to counter this new decision. Whatever happens in that arena, we need to make sure campaign finance disclosure sheds sunlight on what is going on. If we’re going to be awash in campaign spending, at the very least we need to know how much and from whom as it is actually happening.



Nancy Watzman

consultant, Sunlight Foundation



www.muckrakingmom.com Because MUCK doesn't scare MOMs


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