Much wailing and sobbing has been heard from the so-called campaign finance “reform” community over the issue of disclosure of contributions to so-called “shadow” groups freed by the Citizens United decision to spend money urging the election or defeat of candidates for public office. Since the defeat of the DISCLOSE Act on Tuesday, the hysteria among “reformers” has kicked into overdrive.
As the Center for Competitive Politics has pointed out repeatedly, there is no “loophole” in current disclosure requirements. A 527 group that runs ads must disclose their funding sources, as must any other group that raises money to run express advocacy ads or electioneering communications. Ditto for any group that spends a majority of its funds running these types of ads.
It is for all intents and purposes impossible for a “shadow group” to form during the election cycle, run express advocacy ads or electioneering communications without disclosing any of their donors, and then fade away with nobody knowing who funded or was responsible for the ads.
But, let’s assume for a second that it was true that “shadow” groups could come and go without having to disclose their donors. Would voters still be in the dark about the backers of these groups, who was running them and what their perspective and interests were?
Probably not. The fact is, even if “shadow” groups could exist, there wouldn’t be anything particularly shadowy about them, as I explain below.