Exclusive: How corporations secretly move millions to fund political ads

by Brad Jacobson

“It’s unclear whether the Court was being naive or disingenuous.” – Paul S. Ryan, an attorney and expert in federal election law at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C., on the Supreme Court’s touting of disclosure provisions during its decision last month in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

My latest article for Raw Story:

The Supreme Court’s seismic January ruling that corporations are free to spend unlimited amounts of their profits to advertise for or against candidates may have been the latest shakeup of campaign finance – but gaping holes already allow corporations to spend enormous sums without leaving a paper trail, a Raw Story investigation has found.

Campaign finance experts confirmed that though disclosure rules remained intact in the new Supreme Court decision, there are effective methods to circumvent them.


12 replies »

    • Heh – yeah, they do. A minute fraction of what corps give and and an even smaller minute fraction of what it will be now. You know this, of course, and you know that everybody else knows it, so I can’t imagine what your purpose would be in asking the question.

  1. Sorry, Jeff. You’re the one being a dick. It’s apples and oranges. The real problem with corporate campaign contributions is that it’s taxation without representation.

    If I’m in a union, paying my dues, presumably that union will go to work on issues that will benefit me. If they don’t I can always vote for a new labor leader the next time around.

    If I buy goods from a company, some of the proceeds from that purchase go to fund the company’s political agenda, not mine.

  2. As has been mentioned before….money will always be there. The key to all this is transparancy. We need open books, good journalism and an engaged electorate. That’s the combination that produces free, open, and prductve discourse.

    If we can’t implicitly link a corporation to an ad becuase they belong to a larger group such as the Chmaer of Commerce, perhaps the answer is to shame all the groups that belong to the organizaton, kind of a guilt by association technique.

    In the end, I don’t think this problem is so big that it can’t be overcome by the second two keys to success (jouralism and engaged electorate).

  3. Did someone says “good journalism” is needed? Sure, but tens of thousands of “good journalists” — those with years of experience in the craft — have been canned because their corporate employers haven’t figured out a business model that works.

    The notion that journalists are going to be able to easily and often ferret out the exchanges of corporate money behind opaque doors is, perhaps, laughable. Yes, some will be able to, but not as well as they did in the past. Too few are left with too little experience. We’ll see, from time to time, astonishingly good stories … but these days, the nation’s cadre of journalists is undermanned.

  4. Denny,

    I agree that good journalism is hard to find, but in many ways I think that the two factors of good journalism and general electorate apathy have created a symbiotic relationship.

    Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but I feel like we are at the beginning of the end of that era. I think the flatworld of open communictaion will bring about such a plethora thoughts that it will be much harder for corporations to control the message, no matter how much money they have.
    It is a chicken and egg argument, though. Will good journalism erase apathy, or will more engagement demand (seek out) better journalism? I think it will be a combination of the two.

    It won’t get better immediately, but if we take the long view, we may eventually get there.

  5. Well said, Bob. Indeed.

    I’m beginning to believe that my pal Dr. Slammy and his incessant push toward subjective journalism will play an ever-increasing role in public discourse. The writings here at S&R have shown that to me. I do not want to see information conveyed to the citizenry solely by writers with a subjective view; I’d rather see, and I think it’s emerging, a combination of subjectively and objectively produced news. (And yep, I know how subjective the “objective” news can be.)

    When I get over my shock at Citizens United, I’ll have more to say.

    I must disagree somewhat with the hope that “it will be much harder for corporations to control the message.” I don’t think citizens have fully grasped the amounts of money involved. Recall, pls, that in an earlier post (see I concluded that $45 billion had been spent on political contributions and lobbying in the past decade. That’s a lot of high cheese for corps to throw at unsuspecting voters.

  6. In regardds to Citizens United, I confess that I am an optimistic indepedent. It is what it is, and so I have embraced the reality of it. As such, I will look for the best possible outcome. In this case, I am hoping it brings about more communication, with the understanding that not all communication will be good. I will maintain my fervent hope that this will give the bad guys enough rope to hang themselves.

    Agreed that S&R is a terrific site that encourages good reporting and discussions. We need more of this and less Olberman/Hannity et al.

    I found this site ealrier this week and have just begun checking it out. Has anyone else heard of it or have any info on it?

  7. Thanks for the link. I’m not sure if this makes propublica neccessariy good or bad, but in the spirit of transparency it is definately useful inormation. I guess it comes down to the fact that it’s hard to succeed without money.