California Campaigns and the Future of Campaign Financial Disclosure
The Special Election in California's 36th Congressional District featured what has been called the most offensive av in political history. The race is now over. ICPR is not concerned with the outcome, so much as we are concerned about the ads that ran in the race, and especially with who paid for them.
The election drew national attention largely because of an advertisement with racist and sexist overtones put out by a group calling itself Turn Right USA.
Turn Right USA acknowledges that the content of the ad is intended to be offensive. The content does offend us, but we're also offended that the group can run ads attacking a candidate, in the context of the election and clearly targeted at voters, without saying where and from whom they get their money.
As a federal PAC, Turn Right USA has until Friday to file their next disclosure report. (FWIW, state PACs have until Friday to file second quarter reports as well). In the past, they have refused to name their donors, and because they do not give directly to candidates, the FEC and the courts have let them get away with that. Look to see what they file; maybe they'll change tactics and list their funders, though we're not holding our breath.
The presence of so much anonymous money in the campaign is deeply troubling. How can the public have confidence that special interests aren't manipulating elections if funders are allowed to hide their identities from the public? The First Amendment may protect one's right to make offensive statements, however, when it's cloaked in anonymity, it makes a mockery of election law.