Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Best Money Can Buy

The Center for Responsive Politics continues to track expenditures for election ads for this cycle. Once again, the group's Open Secrets blog takes a look at those groups contributing millions for ads without having to reveal the source of the money.

As of today [August 6, 2012], spending reported to the Federal Election Commission by groups that aren't required to disclose the sources of their funding has nearly tripled over where it stood at the same point in the 2010 election cycle, according to research by the Center for Responsive Politics.

By Aug. 6, 2010, groups registered as social welfare organizations, or 501(c)(4)s, as well as super PACs funded entirely by them, had reported spending $8.5 million. That figure has soared to $24.9 million in this cycle.

In 2008, nondisclosing groups reported spending $8.3 million at this point in the campaign season. ...

Any group claiming 501(c)(4) status under the Internal Revenue Code is supposed to spend less than half its budget on political activity, such as independent expenditures. However, as OpenSecrets Blog has described, some groups spend much of their money on issue ads, and also fund other tax-exempt groups with similar political philosophies that in turn spend their money on advertising.

The increase in the overall reported spending by nondisclosing groups this cycle is likely attributable in great part to the fact that this is a presidential election year. An additional factor may be that this is the first full election cycle since the January 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC and other legal developments freed up fundraising and spending by outside groups. ...

Much more spending is yet to come, if 2012 is anything like 2010. Nondisclosing groups reported to the FEC that they spent $130 million for the whole 2010 election cycle, and 93 percent of it was unleashed after Aug. 6.

If that pattern holds true, more than $300 million in political spending will be reported to the FEC by groups that do not have to disclose their donors and are not supposed to have politics as their primary function. Much more money will never be reported, except in vague summaries months -- or even years -- from now, when these groups file their tax forms with the IRS.
[Emphasis added]

And that money is being targeted carefully. Progressive candidates like Sherrod Brown are facing a deluge of nasty ads without being able to match the money spent. In other words, the rest of us are being shut out of the process without knowing who is financing the opposition.

I'm not a big Obama fan, but I'll tell you what: I'll still show up on election day and vote for him and the Democrats in the hopes that one of the members of the conservative wing of the Supreme Court will either retire or die. Justice Kagan is not exactly my cup of tea, but a Romney appointee will no doubt mirror Scalia and Alito.

Like I keep saying: I'm getting too old for this.

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