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A New Commentary Each Wednesday        October 1, 2014

DARK MONEY II: Buying an election

     Over the past half-century, I have made many acquaintances in the media. I "push" this essay to many of them. Last week, I had some critical things to say about the state to which political strategizing, particularly in regard to advertising, has, in my estimation, degenerated. I am afraid we have passed the tipping point, where if the trend into the abyss continues, this 200 year experiment in self-governance will fail. Whoever has the most money to spend on advertising will certainly be our dictator.

    Needless to say, I was underwhelmed by the response from those who sell advertising.

    The bottom line: I've been voting for 66 years and never have I seen more invective. Half-truths prevail and the amount of misinformation with which the forces of darkness are drowning us, has grown to monstrous, almost unbelievable proportions. I figure that by election day, November 4th, over a billion dollars will have been spent - and we will not know where it came from. We will be left with names such as "Center for Responsive Politics," "The Government Integrity Fund," and "Patriot Majority USA."

     I repeat, what is going on in this buying of elections is insidious, deceitful, treacherous and enormously wasteful of our resources. It produces nothing of value to humankind.

   The volume and intensity of acrimony has grown to monumental proportions. This is what computers, new press techniques, television and the world wide web have accomplished. This distorts the voting process. Making an informed choice is almost impossible.

   The secretive manner in which much of the gathering and spending of funds is done is most frightening. Despite disclosure rules, it is possible to spend unlimited amounts of money without voters knowing the identities of donors prior to the election. In federal elections, political action committees (PACs) have the option of choosing to file reports on a monthly or quarterly basis. This allows PACs to raise money from individuals, corporations and unions and flood the media in the days before votes are cast—then not make a disclosure of the expenditures so that we cannot learn of conflicts of interest until three months afterwards.

    Perhaps the ever-spiking volume of this clandestine enterprise will inform you of its pervasiveness. As of last month, dark money expenditures had exceeded $63-million, and the real blast is yet to come. I figure that by election day, November 4th, over a billion dollars in dark money will have been spent.

     Big Loophole: Non-profit, 501 (c) groups are permitted to spend money on political campaigns, because they are not defined as "political committees" under the Federal Election Campaign Act. Plus, they don't have to disclose information on their donors.

     There is no end to the glut of funds available. It can come from individuals, corporations and unions without limit, as long as expenditures are made independently of candidates' campaigns. (Please don't smirk or roll your eyes).

    We desperately need federal laws to stop this, but don't wait until major media players lead the way out of the swamp. They've been bought and paid for.

    If you missed our fulminations of a week ago, feel free to visit the Archives below.

-Phil Richardson, Observer and Storyteller.

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