In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations and unions have the right to make unlimited donations to political campaigns, as long as those donations were not given directly to candidates.
Instead the donations can be made through an independent political action committee (PAC), which must disclose its identity. Since that ruling, these newly empowered PACs are raising and spending an unprecedented amount of money on behalf of their favored candidate.
However, a New York State law has come under scrutiny because of loopholes that allow PACS to remain anonymous while also make untrue claims, according to an article in the Democratic and Chronicle.
For example, the group Common Sense Principles currently is involved in seven close state Senate races. Common Sense is behind the campaign propoganda of at least seven GOP candidates-- mailers with information on its list of GOP opponents that have proved to be either misleading or outright false, reported the article.
And it's all totally legal. This is why:
According to New York Board of Elections regulations, there are two types of outside spending:
1. A group engaging in “express advocacy” uses the terms “vote for” and “vote against” in its ads and therefore is required to disclose its spending;
2. A group engaging in “issue advocacy” that doesn’t expressly instruct voters to support or oppose someone, has no coordination with the candidates and can remain completely anonymous.
This differentiation in independent expenditure disclosure requirements has led to unabated spending on propaganda by anonymous donors who have become agile in messaging misinformation without accountability.
Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy accused the GOP of using right-wing extremist shadow groups to spread malicious lies about its opposing candidates.
And since it’s illegal for a candidate to directly tell an independent committee to stop sending out mailers on his or her behalf, candidates who may or may not know the work of these “anonymous PACS,” can claim they are unaffiliated and at the same time keep their hands clean.
This loophole-riddled state law is spurring many on both sides of the aisle to call for statewide campaign finance reforms. But for the next set of highly critical, highly politicized elections, it’s too-little, too-late.
“The rules need to be changed,” said one upstate Democratic Assemblyman, Joe Morelle. “I find it astonishing in this day and age (that these ads are running). This is like the 1930s again. You have money but nobody knows where it comes from. People can say anything now, it’s amazing.