Democrats mounting attack on outside political spending


The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling has opened the money spigots, and allowed unaffiliated political organizations to attack candidates without revealing who is funding the advertising. Democrats are charging that illegal foreign cash is finding its way into the process, and are attempting to enlist the IRS and FEC to investigate.

Max Baucus (D-MT) is trying to bring the IRS into the issue. He says that entities operating as 501(c) organizations are supposed to have a reason for being other than the elect and/or defeat political candidates. He thinks that many such organizations operating this year were formed specifically for political purposes and warrant investigation. One prominent target, among many, is Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

Meanwhile, liberal group Center for American Progress has charged that the US Chamber of Commerce, which has promised to spend $75M on the midterms, is collecting and spending money from anonymous foreign sources. It noted that the Chamber would likely deny the charge, which was an entirely accurate prediction – the Chamber says that it is very careful to follow the letter of the law when engaging in political activity.

Nonetheless, the CAP report inspired a lengthy editorial in the New York Times, and a letter to the Federal Election Commission from Al Franken (D-MN) asking for an investigation.

According to, Franken fired off a letter to FEC Chairman Matthew S. Peterson saying, “I am profoundly concerned by recent reports that foreign corporations are indirectly spending significant sums to influence American elections through third-party groups. I am writing to ask that you investigate these claims, enforce existing laws and regulations prohibiting foreign spending in American elections, and strengthen those very laws through new regulations and policy guidance.”

RBR-TVBR observation: The Democrats are well aware of the glacial pace of IRS and FEC investigations, even on relatively simple matters. There is no way any complaint registered now on something this complex will make a dime’s worth of difference in 2010. This is all about media attention.

Just as it was clear that the current Republican membership in the Senate would never allow a vote on Citizens United remedies; and just as it became clear that nothing would be in place in time for November even if something was enacted; it is also clear that nothing brought to the attention of these federal agencies will lead to any quick action either.

Complaints made now may well be justified, but they are highly unlikely to result in any concrete results.
Democrats are hoping that they can make enough noise about this third party advertising and ideally cause it to backfire among the electorate.