Yet again, the dysfunctional Federal Election Commission has deadlocked on a fundamental disclosure question involving whether politically active organizations that try to sway elections must identify their donors. Three Democratic-leaning commissioners insist the groups should disclose their donors. Three Republican appointees say these groups aren’t obligated to register with the commission or name their donors. Under rules by which the FEC operates, disclosure loses. The case dates to 2010, the year that Republicans took control of the U.S. House. One of the groups, American Action Network, spent $17 million in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and other states. That was nearly two-thirds of the money it spent that year, the Democratic appointees said. American Action Network is based in Washington, D.C., and chaired by former Sen. Norm Coleman, a Minnesota Republican. The other group, Americans for Job Security, based in Arlington, Va., spent $9.5 million on election-related activity in 2010. That was three-fourths of its money that year.
The groups paid for ads that did not expressly urge votes for or against any candidate, though that was implied. The ads urged voters to take action by, for example, telling their representatives to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or oppose new taxes.
One such ad, aimed at Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said: “During her 18 years in Washington, Patty Murray voted for the largest tax increase in history, and repeatedly voted against tax relief.
“But this November, Murray promises to vote for a huge tax hike on small businesses. Ever heard of helping small businesses, Patty? Tell Sen. Murray, ‘ouch.’ We can’t afford more tax hikes.”