Members of a group bent on getting corporations out of politics take part in a protest last year in Wellfleet, Mass.
A growing number of political campaign contributors are bypassing the Federal Election Commission entirely, secretly donating large sums of money right under the nose of the toothless organization. Private donors are bankrolling large advertising campaigns and stocking candidates’ campaign coffers while hiding behind non-party-affiliated political groups. And after the Supreme Court last year removed limits on corporate political spending, watchdogs say that any semblance of campaign finance regulation and transparency is quickly dissolving. Some democracy, huh? —KDG
Non-party groups, including the secretive ones, are already planning to raise more money in the 2012 elections. They received a boost from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case last year, which for the first time allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts on ads advocating the election or defeat of a candidate.
The organizations face little scrutiny from the FEC, where split votes between Republican and Democratic commissioners have stymied enforcement in case after case for almost three years.
As a result, voters may find themselves choosing the next U.S. president knowing less about those trying to shape their views of the candidates than they have since secret money helped finance the Watergate burglary and re-elect President Richard Nixon in 1972. Watergate led to his resignation and ushered in the law that created the FEC. Investigators found more than $20 million had been given behind the scenes to Nixon’s campaign.