Ever since Citizens United, I’ve worried incessantly about how unidentified vast monies influence voting.
It’s not easy for those of us who live in deep blue states to understand precisely how such a massive influx of money during election campaigns could, say, change a voter’s mind on a particular candidate or issue. Why? Because we don’t get a lot of campaign ads.
It’d be nice for our egos to imagine that “social welfare” PACs (yuk yuk) ignore us liberals because they know we’re immune to brainwashing. But it’s probably just a cost-benefit analysis to the dark money people. We’re not worth the expenditure. (Because we’re immune to brainwashing.)
I asked two cousins who live in Wisconsin what those ads were like. Neither of them had paid attention to them (they’re both liberals), but Eliza said they ran all the time. Which is what I guess happens. The ads, which do not clearly identify who’s putting the big bucks into them, just pound away at people’s heads.
The ads are not supposed to be for a particular candidate but I gather they feel free to smear, in barely coded language, the opposition. Which is primarily Democratic.
Yes, we know the Koch Bros’s spider web of Orwellian-named groups pay for these ads. In New York we did see something of them during the Neil Gorsuch “campaign” for the Supreme Court seat rightfully belonging to Merrill Garland. So we know how pleasant and soothing they intend to be. (I was, of course, incensed. Sort of the opposite of soothed.)
But really, how do they influence people to vote for a particular Republican? How?
I wake up in the middle of the night worried about just this. After all, the difference in votes between Trump and Hillary — in three states only — was 77,000. How many of those 77,000 people were affected by dark money TV ads slamming Hillary during the last weeks of the campaign?
In late November, a bipartisan group of Idaho lawmakers drafted a bill that would require spenders in local and state races to reveal more layers of funding and make public disclosures more frequently. If passed into law, the measure would require election advertisers to name their five biggest funders. If a funder were itself an organization that received contributions, that funder would have to disclose its top ten donors if it gave more than $1,000 in the crucial 15 days before an election. This multilayered disclosure would help reduce “gray money” — money that is routed through tiers of groups to conceal its true origin and dodge oversight.
In New Mexico, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver pushed through stronger campaign finance disclosure rules that took effect in October. Perhaps most consequential, nonprofits, super PACs, and other organizations that spend significant amounts on political ads will now, using dedicated accounts for this spending, have to disclose anyone who contributed more than $200.
In Arizona, some advocates are proposing a state constitutional amendment to require the disclosure of the “original source” of funds given to any group spending $10,000 or more to influence an election. Independent spenders themselves would have to trace the money given to them, uncover intermediary layers, and register the names and addresses of anyone giving more than $5,100.
This is good. And more encouraging to me, I see that some of these states are not blue guys. Maybe some Republicans are also waking up in the middle of the night worrying.