As the US presidential and congressional elections draw nearer, partisan groups spending hundreds of millions of dollars on political advertisements face a new challenge in keeping secret their list of donors.
The presidential campaigns of Republican nominee Mitt Romney and incumbent US President Barack Obama have cost USD 381 million since May 1 on mostly negative publicity ads against each other in eight so-called battleground states, where neither candidate has a clear edge in terms of voter support, the US-based National Public Radio (NPR) reported Sunday.
Republicans, according to the report, have spent more than the Democrats in five of the eight states and, leading their only political rival by an overall USD 25 million.
The US political system is dominated by Democratic and Republican parties, refusing equivalent and even adequate exposure or funding resources to any independent parties or candidates.
Two pro-Republican groups account for two-thirds of all advertisement expenditure by the entire political party, spending even more than the Romney campaign itself. One group is Americans for Prosperity, backed by billionaires David and Charles Koch, and the other is Crossroads GPS, co-founded by famous Republican political fundraiser and former official of the George Bush administration, Karl Rove.
“Both pro-Republican groups are technically social welfare organizations, so they aren’t required to disclose their donors,” the report notes.
“But now that the election is fewer than 60 days away, maintaining secrecy is a little harder,” the report added, explaining that there is a legal “window” that closes 60 days before the election.
The legal condition requires the competing groups to reveal the funding behind the so-called “electioneering” ads, which are TV and radio advertisements in support of a particular candidate but do not expressly tell the audience how to vote.
According to US tax regulations, however, social welfare groups are not supposed to be political organizations and, therefore, express political advocacy must not account for more than half of their activity.
Despite their occasional public claims censuring lobbyists and buying of votes by wealthy interest groups and individuals, elected officials in the US depend almost entirely on such funding and have consistently refused to enact laws limiting the major impact of money spent to promote special interest in the elections.
For instance, in his recent address to the Democratic convention, Obama admitted to the big role of money and political pressure groups in determining the outcome of elections in the United States. This is while he is notorious for accepting campaign money and being influenced by wealthy corporations and political pressure groups such as the leading pro-Israeli lobby, AIPAC.
“If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference,” he said, “then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the USD 10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are making it harder for you to vote.”
In the United States, the president is not elected by the citizens directly. American citizens cast their ballots for a slate of the members of the Electoral College. These electors in turn elect the president. The final result is based on adding together the number of the votes in every state.