You’re watching an ad. You hear the voice of President Obama. You hear the phrases “the White House” and “the Administration.” You see a reference to “Obamacare,” a derogatory phrase coined by conservatives opposed to the president’s legislative centerpiece, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
What might you conclude? It’s a political ad, and it’s critical of the president. If you knew the regulations of the Federal Election Commission, you might conclude that the ad represents “electioneering communications.” And if the ad is indeed an electioneering communication, then the ad is subject to campaign finance disclosure laws requiring the sponsoring group to reveal its funders.
It’s the job of the six FEC commissioners (three from each party) to determine if an ad is an electioneering communication. This week (on Flag Day, no less), the commissioners were unable to agree on whether that ad and four others proposed by the 501(c)(4) group American Future Fund (AFF) constituted electioneering communications requiring disclosure of funders. Say what?
The AFF asked the commission for an advisory opinion on eight proposed ads. (Here’s the AFF’s request, describing each ad.) Look at the proposed ads. If it quacks like a duck, flies and swims like a duck, and looks like a duck, then it’s a duck. If it beats up on politician or a policy during an election season, then it’s “electioneering communications.”
The commissioners deadlocked on five of the eight ads. Republican commissioners Donald McGahn, Matthew Petersen, and Caroline Hunter apparently don’t know when a duck is a duck, so they refused to recognize five of the ads as electioneering communications.
These three have a history of political obstructionism. So their ideologically induced blindness to the political nature of these ads proposed by a “nonpartisan” federal political committee “formed to provide Americans with a conservative and free market viewpoint [emphasis added]” is hardly surprising.
Paul S. Ryan, Campaign Legal Center Senior Counsel said: “The FEC should have responded to this question from AFF in much the same way that Washington Nationals rookie phenom Bryce Harper did when he was recently asked an equally preposterous question: ‘That’s a clown question, bro.’” Ryan added: “AFF is clearly playing games for the sole purpose of hiding their donors from voters. And the FEC’s three Republican commissioners would be happy to let them get away with it, deliberately undermining laws passed by Congress.”
“The failure of the three Republican commissioners to find that five proposed ads by the American Future Fund are covered by the campaign finance laws is a joke,” said Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer. “The proposed ads by American Future Fund are nothing more than a blatant effort to circumvent the recent federal district court decision that groups that run electioneering communications must to disclose their donors. The three Republican Commissioners are serving as enablers and trying to help the American Future Fund disregard the campaign finance laws and a federal court decision.”
By the way, here’s the small print on the AFF’s website that describes its function:
The American Future Fund is a 501©(4) organization which primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on important national issues. American Future Fund Political Action is a federal political committee which primarily helps members elect candidates who reflect our values through a variety of activities aimed at influencing the outcome of the next election. [emphasis added]
Really? Nonpartisan? But only helps candidates who reflect our values? Now there’s cognitive dissonance …
h/t: Campaign Legal Center