REAL ISSUES

Big Political Spenders Can Stay Under The Radar

Independent groups setting up nonprofits here and across the U.S.

By BRADLEY OLSON
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

Political SpendingTwo local political advocacy groups pushing very different agendas have organized as nonprofits under the tax code, part of a new national trend in politics in which corporations and the wealthy can spend big in election season under the cloak of anonymity.

Campaign finance watchdogs say the tactic conceals important information about who is backing a political cause, but both groups insist they have followed the law and anonymity had nothing to do with their rationale for setting up as nonprofits.

“We are plunging deep into scandal,” said Craig Holman, a campaign finance reform advocate for Public Citizen, a Washington-based consumer advocacy organization. “Without disclosure, we have no idea where this money is coming from and no way to determine whether it’s legal or illegal. You could have drug cartels investing in an election on the Texas border, wanting to soften the laws, and there would be no way to know it.”

Nationally, the number of independent groups operating as nonprofits has exploded as they have become a major force in the upcoming midterm elections, spending, by some estimates, more than $250 million running ads for and against candidates around the country.

The floodgates opened, campaign finance watchdogs say, with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling last January that struck down a ban on corporations, both for-profit and nonprofit, spending money to advocate for specific candidates in the immediate months before an election.

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Posted by on Oct 26 2010. Filed under Politics, Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Comments for “Big Political Spenders Can Stay Under The Radar”

  1. Editor

    As November 2nd looms closer, it is not unusual to see political spending ramp up the pace and this year is no exception. After the ruling in January, the spending on political campaigns has increased dramatically. Much of that is bound to be due to the new ruling.

  2. Andrew P.

    Yes, campaign spending has increased, but I contend that not much else has changed. The political ads from both sides still contain mostly negative themes, which is a sorry, rotten shame, in my opinion. Not that I can change anything with my opinion, but it still remains a shame. My vote would be for more disclosure (total disclosure, if at all possible), and for political campaigns that actually give voters the information they need to make an informed decision. Would that be too much to ask from both sides of the political spectrum? I don’t think it is.

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