Political Ads - Shadow Party
HandelontheLaw.com Staff Writer
Remember the good old days when political ads ended with elections? Whether or not your candidate won, you could at least feel relieved that those relentless, overinflated, grating political ads would be replaced by relentless, overinflated, grating commercials until the next campaign season. Well, brace yourselves: as far as political insiders are concerned, the campaign season now runs 365 days per year.
When the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that the First Amendment prohibits governmental restrictions on independent political expenditures by groups including but not limited to corporations, it opened the floodgates. Special interest groups have financed almost 70% more political ads since the 2010 midterm Congressional elections, spending an anticipated $2 Billion to shape the elections. More special interest political ads have aired during summer 2014 Senate campaigns than were aired during the whole 2010 Senate campaign season. With that kind of money and constant exposure, a special interest group can define the tone, message and even the candidate as it wishes. This ability to define tone, message and candidates has made these prosperous interest groups a “shadow party” that might control key contests statewide and nationwide. What is more, experts realistically believe that the 2014 contest is setting the stage for the 2016 Presidential and Congressional races.
The “shadow parties” are used by both major political parties. Conservative interests are currently represented by Americans for Prosperity (supported by the Koch brothers), the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and Citizens United. Meanwhile, Democratic interests are currently represented by the Senate Majority PAC, House Majority PAC, Patriot Majority USA and Put Alaska First PAC. Additional groups probably exist and/or will be created before the elections.
Part of the shadow party’s power and weakness comes from the fact that many voters will not know who’s paying for this or that ad. Failing to realize the source of an ad makes one easier to manipulate, which probably accounts for the lofty and/or generic names adopted these moneyed special interest groups, whether conservative or liberal. As one Republican ad firm cofounder put it, “By November, swing voters won’t know whether they’re voting for a Republican or saving themselves 15 percent or more on car insurance.” Another worry for all political interests is the tendency of voters to “tune out” the bombardment of political ads. The more political ads are aired, the more they are perceived as “white noise” and tuned out by voters. Worse yet, politicos are worried that the flood of ads may cause voters to “disengage” from the elections and simply not vote. The supposed answer to these worries rests in “creative commercials” that are clear cut and target vital voters. Meanwhile, I maintain that the best answer to the storm of political ads is the voter’s own research of the candidates.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DO find out which special interest is paying for the political ads assailing you.
DO rely on your own research of the candidates to define the candidates for yourself.
DON’T allow the inevitable hurricane of political ads to turn you off from voting.
By Kathy Catanzarite
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.
GENERAL LAW DOS AND DON'TS