The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board stressed the negative impact super PAC ads have on voter turnout as outside money targeting the presidential and Senate races begins coming into play across the country. Research highlighted by the Post-Gazette showed that the negative ads run by super PACs can discourage voter turnout, a result the board called “sinister and profoundly anti-democratic.”
The May 30 editorial cited research from the Ohio Media Project -- “a consortium of radio and television stations and the largest newspapers in the state” -- which found that negative campaign ads like the ones often funded by super PACs “are designed to suppress voter turnout as much as they are to persuade voters to support one candidate over another.”
The Post-Gazette underscored that while super PAC spending occurs in support of both Democratic and Republican candidates, the 2012 presidential election saw “$424.4 million [spent] supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and $145 million supporting Democratic President Barack Obama.” The editorial named the billionaire Koch brothers -- who have committed at least $30 million for ads aimed at influencing Senate races in the 2016 -- as a major supporters of super PACs behind negative ads. From the Post-Gazette:
Researchers found that only about 1 percent of voters, primarily independents, are moved from one camp to another because of negative ads, but in swing states, like Ohio, sometimes elections are decided by 1 percent or less. But the researchers also found that, “especially with moderate voters, you get a demobilization effect, where they just kind of turn off, ‘This is a nasty campaign, I just want to stay home.’ ”
That is truly sinister and profoundly anti-democratic.
Equally disturbing as the attack ads and their intent is the answer to this question. Who is paying for this garbage? In the 2012 presidential election, independent spending — by groups not connected with either political party — came to $424.4 million supporting Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and $145 million supporting Democratic President Barack Obama.
The sources of that money, often called “dark money,” are being kept secret, and that is wrong.
The super PAC Americans for Prosperity is a good example. Look up its 2012 expenditures in opensecrets.org and the only line that comes up is: $33,542,051 spent against President Obama’s re-election.
The Center for Responsive Politics identified AFP’s biggest contributor as Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which is controlled by billionaire industrialists David and Charles Koch. But the FEC did not require this disclosure.