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 http://ifs.org/blog/detail/disclose-and-disclosure. 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.
CQ Politics reported today the following:
It didn’t take long for new independent expenditure organizations to take advantage of recent court rulings to maximize their impact on the 2010 election.
Since Friday, at least three groups filed new documents with the Federal Election Commission stating that they intend to raise unlimited funds from individuals, corporations and unions to run ads before the Nov. 2 midterms…
Californians for Fiscally Responsible Leadership was the first committee to take advantage of these new rules, filing new forms with the FEC within under 24 hours of the agency’s new policy.
Others were the Democratic group Commonsense Ten and Arizonans Working Together…
These groups are literally brand new, and have obviously not had time to file any disclosure reports on their donors. If these groups were to not have to file a single report about their finances between now and election day, would the campaign finance “reform” community be right to call them “shadow” groups that nobody would have any idea who was behind them or responsible for their communications?
The short answer is, any cub reporter with a computer, internet connection, phone, and most importantly a willingness to look would have no problem identifying who these groups represent and what their perspectives and interests are. My exhaustive 15 minute search dug up the following:
- Californians for Fiscally Responsible Leadership (CFRL) has the same mailing address as the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians, and Patrick Hammond, listed on the FEC web site as treasurer of the CFRL, is on the tribal council of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians.
- Commonsense Ten has been in the news and is represented by Democratic uberlawyer Mark Elias and will be run by Democratic strategists Jim Jordan, Monica Dixon and Jeff Forbes.
- Arizonans Working Together (AWT) has Kristen K. Mayes listed as the director on its filing with the Arizona Corporations Commission. By remarkable coincidence, a Kristen K. Mayes happens to be the Chairman of the Arizona Corporations Commission, and the home addresses of the Kristen K. Meyers that is the director of AWT and the Kristen K. Meyers that is Chairman of the Arizona Corporations Commission are identical. She is a Republican.
Now, it is possible that it won’t be until disclosure reports reveal that the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians has contributed to Californians for Fiscally Responsible Leadership that it occurs to some that “Hey! Californians for Fiscally Responsible Government is trying to advance the interests of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians!” Likewise, some may be similarly mystified about the interests and perspective behind Commonsense Ten and Arizonans Working Together even after learning that one is run by Democratic strategists and the other by a Republican officeholder in Arizona.
But such people are likely to be few and far between, and with any luck the education reforms that President Obama has been pushing will cut down on the number of befuddled Americans who must rely on knowing the precise names of the donors to a group before being able to figure out the organization’s interests and perspective.
So for those of you needlessly lathered up and having fainting spells over the idea of voters not having the appropriate “voting cues” required to trigger the knee-jerk reactions thought by some so vital to enlightened voting, you can put away your smelling salts and rest comfortably tonight knowing that there are no political groups able to lurk in the shadows.