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League Calls on Media to Stop Secret Political Advertising

Press Release / Last Updated:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEContact: Kelly Ceballos
October 15, 2010 202-263-1331

Candidates Asked to Repudiate Secretly Funded Ads

Washington, DC – Today, the League of Women Voters called on television and radio stations to refuse political advertising paid for with secret money. The League also called for political candidates to repudiate campaign advertising in their races that comes from front groups and organizations that fail to disclose their big donors.

"We are seeing huge sums of money from secret sources going into campaign advertising, much of it the negative advertising that poisons the airways," said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters.

"Millions upon millions upon millions of dollars are being spent secretly in this election and it threatens to drown out the voices of individual voters. Because of changes in the law brought about by recent Supreme Court decisions, there are no disclosure requirements that let the voters know who is paying for the ads," she said. "Voters need to know who is paying – it is a vital part of their decision-making process in deciding whether to believe the ads," she said.

"It’s just wrong. Secret campaign cash should have no place in our American democracy," according to MacNamara.

"That’s why we are calling on media outlets and political candidates to act responsibly. The media should refuse these secretly-funded ads and candidates should repudiate the ads – even if they help the candidate get elected," she said. "Protecting our democracy and the vital role of informed voters is more important than any one election," MacNamara argued.

"We understand that political advertising is very lucrative for media outlets, but we believe the public would be better served in this election season if TV and radio stations required full disclosure of the funders of campaign advertising – and refused such advertising if the sponsor fails to disclose the major funders," she said. "It’s not enough to know that an ad was paid for by ‘Moms for Apple Pie,’ ‘Dads for Cherry Pie,’ or some other innocuous sounding name. The voters need to know exactly who gave the big money to such organizations to pay for the advertising," MacNamara said.

"Organization like the national Chamber of Commerce proudly announced their campaign advertising, but then refused to disclose which major corporations are funding the ads. Consumers and voters need to know," MacNamara maintained. "Candidates have to ‘stand by their ads.’ Big donors should stand up and be counted when they are paying for election advertising."

The League of Women Voters has been calling attention to secret money being spent on political advertising for months, but the U.S. Senate has refused to act to require disclosure, even though the House of Representatives passed a strong disclosure bill which was supported by the League.

Though the Supreme Court recently changed campaign finance law, the Court approved of enhanced disclosure. It said that disclosure is important to "providing the electorate with information." It also supported disclaimer requirements "so that the people will be able to evaluate the arguments to which they are being subjects."

Now we are seeing the largest campaign expenditures in history even as organizations accept hundreds of thousands of dollars from secret sources. Essentially, these organizations are functioning as Political Action Committees but without having to follow the laws requiring disclosure of their donors. It should come as no surprise that they lobbied against the DISCLOSE Act in Congress, which would have stopped manipulation of elections by fly-by-night anonymous hit groups, and prevented the infusion of undercover expenditures.

"These activities are directly detrimental to our democracy. Voters deserve to know who is paying for election advertising. The League of Women Voters calls on all candidates to disavow secret advertising and asks media outlets not to accept ads unless the names of the true major donors are made public," MacNamara said



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The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

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