LA Times: Corporate campaign ads haven’t followed Supreme Court’s prediction

Written by admin on October 27th, 2010

The Los Angeles Times reports on how both political parties have exploited loopholes in the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision in order to direct a flood of undisclosed spending in the current election cycle.

LA Times

The Supreme Court sent a wave of corporate and union money flooding into campaign ads this year, but it did so with the promise that the public would know — almost instantly — who was paying for them.

“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,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in January. “This transparency enables the electorate to make informed decisions and give proper weight to different speakers and messages.”

But Kennedy and the high court majority were wrong. Because of loopholes in tax laws and a weak enforcement policy at the Federal Election Commission, corporations and wealthy donors have been able to spend huge sums on campaign ads, confident the public will not know who they are, election law experts say.

This year’s election marks the first time in 100 years that corporations and unions are free to spend their money on election ads. In the past, both companies and unions could encourage their employees or members to give money to political action committees, which in turn could pay for election ads.

But in January, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down the legal ban on the use of corporate and union funds for direct election ads. In Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the justices said that corporations had the same right to free speech as individuals, and for that reason the government could not stop corporations from spending to help their favored candidates.

In the same decision, however, an 8-1 majority upheld the disclosure laws as vital to democracy. That part of the ruling has gone largely ignored.


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