For over 60 years, there have been laws in place that prevented corporations from funding advertising for political candidates. However, in January of 2010, the United States Supreme Court ruled that restricting corporations from using general treasury money for political advertising is a violation of the First Amendment stating that the “government may not suppress political speech on the basis of the speaker’s corporate identity” (Parloff 72-75). Though corporations are still restricted from directly contributing to an individual candidate’s campaign fund this ruling opens the doors for corporations to spend limitless amounts of money on advertising for the candidate of their choice. In response to this ruling, certain parties are rallying for regulations that require full disclosure of funding sources for ad campaigns. Enacting such regulations will be necessary to keep the American elections in the hands of the American voters and not under the financial control of corporations.
This recent ruling not only loosens restrictions on corporate funded political advertising but also threatens the integrity of the election process. An estimated $4.2 billion will be spent on political advertising in 2010 (Wheaton & Steinberg). The increased amount of money that corporations can now spend on political advertising leaves room for quid-pro-quo dealings between the candidates and the corporations. In support of a disclosure bill, President Obama states his concern that this recent ruling will allow “elections [to be] bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests” (Parloff 72-75). Enacting regulations that require full disclosure of ad funding will not only keep voters informed about who is backing the candidates but will also provide a baseline for a checks and balances system to ensure politicians aren’t being directly swayed by corporate money.
Not having regulations in place that require full disclosure of funding sources for advertising will leave voters in the dark as to where a candidates interests my truly lie. In reference to their ruling on corporate funded political ads, the Supreme Court stated “the right of citizens to inquire, to hear, to speak, and to use information to reach consensus is a precondition to enlightened self-government” (Holman & Bossie). A large part of the information that voters should use is what corporations or interest groups are funding the ads for the campaigns. For example, if an issue such as socialized health care is a high priority to a voter, they should know if a candidate is getting advertising money from one of the larger health insurance companies. Enforcing full disclosure of funding sources will not only help voters make a more informed decision but will also make politicians more accountable and hopefully more selective about where they choose to accept funding from.
In addition, voters should not only have the right to know what businesses are funding the ads for political campaigns but they should also have the right to know if they are indirectly helping fund a candidate that they strongly oppose. Putting disclosure regulations in place provides American voters with information regarding the interests of a political candidate and also provides them with information regarding the interests of the businesses they choose to solicit. A devout vegan may be surprised to find that the bank they’ve been doing business with for years contributes large amounts of money to ad campaigns for a senator who also receives large amounts of advertising from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association. Empowering the American public with this information will give them an opportunity to make an impact at the polls and will give them the opportunity to make changes as a consumer as well. Knowing that their political contributions may affect their consumer base, corporations will begin thinking more about where they contribute their money.
The largely republican