3-8-11: Whose Ad Is It, Anyway?
If you lived in Maryland this past election cycle, chances are you remember lots of ads. And many of them weren’t created by a particular campaign, but by independent groups, such as the Republican Governor’s Association, or the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.
Communications such as these are examples of “independent expenditures”—political messages created by groups other than candidates or political committees.
The potential power of this kind of message was drastically increased in January 2010, when the Supreme Court ruled in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The high court removed the limit on how much corporations can give to help fund independent political ads.
The decision didn’t affect Maryland law, because the state already permitted unions and corporations to make political contributions. Maryland is one of only six states without any disclosure requirements for such donations in state races. That means any company or individual who funds this kind of ad is not required to make their contribution public.
A new bill currently in front of the Maryland legislature would change that (House Bill 93, cross filed with Senate Bill 592). It’s sponsored by Delegate Jon Cardin, Democrat of Baltimore County, and Senator Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Montgomery County. The measure would require expenditures of over $10,000 for political ads that affect races at the state level to be disclosed.
Meanwhile, Delegate Cardin has also co-sponsored a new joint resolution that would create a commission to study campaign finance law in Maryland. This comes after Attorney General Doug Gansler gathered together a group of lawmakers and lawyers to study the issue this past fall.
Delegate Cardin joins Sheilah in the studio to discuss the details of the legislation. They also speak with Sean Parnell, who has reservations about the financial disclosure bill. He’s the president of the Center for Competitive Politics, an organization dedicated to protecting First Amendment political rights.
Also, just for the web, Sean Parnell and Delegate Cardin discuss how disclosure of independent expenditures in the 2010 Minnesota gubernatorial race has affected companies such as Target and Best Buy.