Editorial: Who Approved These Ads?
Monday, June 28th, 2010
THE NEW YORK TIMES, 6/25/10. When the Supreme Court cavalierly threw aside decades of controls to let corporations and unions flood federal elections with unlimited campaign funds, the alternative the court suggested was a mandatory dose of transparency. Let voters know who is really behind the new wave of spending was the court’s prescription.
The House took the court at its word Thursday and approved disclosure requirements to have deep-pocket spenders identify themselves on their ads, the same as candidates do, and not hide behind propaganda front groups. It is absolutely essential that the Senate quickly follow suit and vote final approval of the House’s Disclose reform act in time for the November elections.
The measure would hardly cure all the damage of the court decision, and it is flawed with exemptions for major special interest groups. But it is the best that voters can hope for to help them fathom a likely boom in attack ads and campaign propaganda.
The measure, sponsored by Representative Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat of Maryland, also would put restrictions on campaign spending by major government contractors and foreign controlled companies. Ideally, it should not have been freighted with exceptions for the National Rifle Association and other large nonprofit groups that exercised last-minute arm-twisting. But the disclosure provisions remain strong and have the blessing of good-government watchdogs like the League of Women Voters.
The pity is that very few Republicans are backing disclosure despite their past years of insistence that transparency, not spending limitations, was the right path to campaign fairness. They may be betting that the Republican Party has the most to gain from the court’s decision to unfetter corporate campaign spending. What’s clear is that the public has the least to gain from heightened attack ads floated by phantom check writers.
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