Campaign transparency

Kansas voters deserve to know who is bankrolling “issue” advertising aimed at influencing state elections.

February 4, 2011


For the eighth straight year, the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission is expected to recommend that the Kansas Legislature approve a bill requiring political action committees to file campaign finance reports detailing exactly how much they are spending and who is providing those funds.

Had such a law been in effect last fall, we would have known who was bankrolling the Iowa-based American Future Fund, which spent about $1 million on television advertising during the November election campaign to defeat Kansas Attorney General Steve Six.

Groups like the American Future Fund bypass traditional campaign disclosure rules for individuals and PACs because they don’t expressly advocate votes for or against a candidate. Instead, they seek to influence voters through “issue ads.”

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, also has pushed for a change in the ethics law for years.

“There are just going to be more and more groups spending more and more money to influence our elections,” Davis told the Journal-World.

The least that should be required of such groups is to tell the public where the money is coming from to pay for the ads. That information could give voters an idea why the funds’ donors might seek to sway the vote. It’s an issue of transparency.

According to AFF’s website, the group opposes the health care reform signed into law by President Barack Obama. The AFF ran ads attacking Six for refusing to join the legal challenge of the law.

Six was defeated by Republican Derek Schmidt, who has since fulfilled a campaign promise by joining a lawsuit against the health reform law. AFF commercials didn’t endorse Schmidt, but a law ensuring transparency of AFF donors might have helped voters make that connection.

Voters also can play a role in combating the influence of such television ads by simply ignoring them. There is nothing objective about these ads; they are meant to influence, not inform. Voters should be forewarned that the message they receive from issue ads likely is slanted or unclear.

It’s time that Kansas have a law requiring PACs to file campaign finance reports that show how much they are spending on “issue” ads and who is bankrolling that effort. That will help to better inform the voters, rather than keeping them blindfolded.


Paul R Getto 6 years, 11 months ago

Good points, but didn't the Supreme Court rule that all this 'secret' money was now legal? We deserve good answers as to why 'furriners' want to influence Kansas' elections, but I doubt it will happen. Maybe the candidates will fess up? HAH! Outside money got Muscular Sam his senator's job long ago, so there is a tradition here.

WilburM 6 years, 11 months ago

No, Citizen's United decision allows corporations and unions to spend money on electioneering ads from their treasuries. This really didn't happen much in 2010 (they would have to report it). What did happen was that superpacs were created around the 503(c)(4) nonprofit tax category, and these do not require reporting. That's where the federal change should come. But states can write their own rules on this stuff, too.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

I believe the ruling merely said that there could be no limits on spending. I don't think the issue of secrecy was even addressed, meaning that there could be new laws requiring transparency on where the money is coming from.

And really, I don't see why there should be any objections to such laws, but, of course, the whole point of the massive and unlimited spending on campaigns is to manipulate voters with mis- and disinformation, and voters' being able to follow the money would make that a more difficult task.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 11 months ago

So Dear Leader's campaign website will be accepting untraceable cash again? That worked out very well for him in 2008.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Yes, it was very Republican-like of him, wasn't it?

Flap Doodle 6 years, 11 months ago

In 2008, the Republican candidate for President participated in the public campaign finance program. Dear Leader decided that he could pull in enough illegal cash to make up for not receiving matching funds. That worked out pretty well for him, but left a lot of his markers scattered all over the country/world.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 11 months ago

Yea, the big money bags saw him as too likely a loser, so they placed their bets elsewhere.

But I'd be OK with complete public funding of elections. How about you? Or are you only against it when your boy loses?

pace 6 years, 11 months ago

Pacs should have to identify themselves. People should ignore KBads and other propaganda, not matter who is spinning what. Demand information. Demand access to information.

pace 6 years, 11 months ago

does not matter who is spinning hat.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 11 months ago

Candidates should have to wear their sponsor's logo patches on their suits so we can see who they're working for; like the NASCAR drivers do.

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