The advertising bill Congress can pass

For those of us who attended Obama’s rally at UW-Madison on Tuesday, we got to hear a fair amount about the campaign disclosure bill. And while I wasn’t sure that the rally was the right place to highlight their efforts, this is an important issue that Congress needs to address.

A quick rundown: the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United, which ruled that corporations have the same first amendment rights as people and can thus spend freely and without restriction on independent candidates ads. At the same time, the FCC has apparently changed the rules about disclosure so that only when the money is for a specific ad itself is disclosure required. The upshot: corporations and interest groups can spend unlimited amounts of money on ads without disclosing who their donors are.

Despite Democrats’ efforts, the campaign disclosure bill looks like it has failed to pass Congress again after facing unified Republican opposition. This bill would have closed some of the loopholes in funding disclosure and added some kind of “I approve this message” for interest groups, as well as political candidates.

The pressing advertising issue bill that Congress looks poised to pass? Turning down the volume on political advertisements!

No wonder people have such an unfavorable view of Congress! Of all the problems with campaign advertising – the increasing costs, funding disclosures, etc. – the one problem I don’t hear much about is the volume of ads. Yet this is the only measure, apparently, that merits bipartisan support.

Both political parties are, of course, looking out for their best electoral interest. That’s a given. I’m disheartened yet again, however, that the partisan nature of politics has prevented passing this important legislation. I don’t understand the political gain for Republicans either – what part of their political ideology opposes campaign disclosure? Which voters would oppose knowing who’s funding the ads they have to see?

This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Unfortunately, this issue will probably never get the attention it deserves. And it’s partly all our fault – mine included. After all, I did say that I wasn’t sure that the UW-Madison rally was the venue for discussing the issue. And I’m still not sure it was effective. But I do know that we need to talk about this issue and put pressure on the government. With all the money corporations can now pour into campaigns, we need to set clear standards about disclosure. And if people knew more about the stakes, I don’t think it could remain a partisan issue for long.


  1. I’m not as opposed to the Supreme Court ruling about unlimited funding as many – I think their justification for the ruling is sound. I do support, unconditionally, the disclosure of where campaign funding comes from. Time being a limited resource, many can’t afford to spend it researching who is behind what political messages they see on tv… and an uninformed voting population hurts everyone.

  2. This issue is, in my opinion, one of the most important issues currently on the table. Manipulation of the voting populace via marketing campaigns needs to have [very modest] limits imposed. This is a crucial first step if we ever hope to stray from a 2-party system and hold career politicians more accountable for their stances on real issues.

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