League Calls on Media to Stop Secret Political Advertising

For Immediate Release

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Kelly Ceballos
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League Calls on Media to Stop Secret Political Advertising

Supreme Court Erred, Decision Undermines Basic Pillar of American Democracy

WASHINGTON - 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

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The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, has fought since 1920 to improve our systems of government and impact public policies through citizen education and advocacy. The League's enduring vitality and resonance comes from its unique decentralized structure. The League is a grassroots organization, working at the national, state and local levels.

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