The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

January 28, 2013

Take a hint from NASCAR

By Scott Mooneyham for the SNAP
SNAP

Monday, January 28, 2013 — RALEIGH – At some point in the not-too-distant future, politicians may well leave behind their suits, ties and dresses.

Instead, they could start donning bright-colored, NASCAR-looking jumpsuits, replete with corporate sponsorship logos.

After all, if R.J. Reynolds or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is paying the freight for your campaign, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, why not let the world know?

We could also look forward to the pols’ rhetoric reflecting the times.

“Well, the race got tight there in the turn, but the Goldman Sachs campaign really put it into overdrive in the final stretch. Without my AT&T communications network, and Deloitte campaign accounting, we’d probably have put into the wall,” says our erstwhile winner.

As for the loser, she could lament, “We had a good run. The National Association of Educators campaign was really humming early in the race. I really thought Microsoft and PricewaterhouseCoopers stepping up to the plate late was going to make the difference, but we just couldn’t catch them. Hey, Bo, give me that Pepsi before the camera leaves.”

One of the reasons that we haven’t yet reached that day may be because North Carolina still bans corporate and union contributions to individual candidate campaigns.

Similar bans apply in 23 other states and in federal races.

It doesn’t really matter. Those laws have become paper tigers in the wake of the 2010 Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which freed up corporations and unions to use their treasuries to spend directly on behalf of candidates.

To no one’s surprise, the result is that more and more of the total campaign freight is being paid by Super PACs and so-called 527 groups, using corporate and union dollars. Less of the spending is coming from individual candidate campaigns.

But if anyone believes that the individual candidates and their campaigns are caught unaware of the outside spending, they are living in la-la land.

Invariably, when there are big players in races, the outside groups throw out the nasty attack ads. The candidates and their campaigns, when they know that they need not get their hands dirty, stick to the warm and fuzzy, feel-good stuff.

One recent study found that these outside, shadow campaigns accounted for $4.1 million in spending in congressional races in North Carolina in 2012. Ninety percent of that money came from groups registered outside of the state.

Two of the primary shadow campaigns from inside the state, Real Jobs NC (R-NC) and Common Sense Matters (D-NC), spent at least $1.6 million supporting legislative and gubernatorial candidates.

That figure could be much higher because all of the IRS reports are not in, which points to yet another problem with the outside spending: The reporting is not the same as that of the candidate committees and the source of all the money may not be known for months until after an election.

So, give us a clue.

Just jump into those jumpsuits, and let us know who is paying the way.