Two new groups — one Republican-leaning, the other pro-Democratic — seeking to capitalize on a Supreme Court ruling allowing the use of unlimited donations for ads targeting candidates have gotten the go-ahead from election officials.
The Federal Election Commission on Thursday approved plans by the conservative Club for Growth and by Democratic activists to collect big contributions for ads on candidates. Both say the committees set up to run the ads will disclose their donors and spending to the FEC in publicly available reports.
A Supreme Court ruling in January allows the use of unlimited donations from individuals, corporations and unions for election-time ads that urge people to vote for or against specific candidates and are run independently of campaigns and political parties. The court struck down restrictions on political ads, saying they violated free-speech rights.
The FEC's decisions on the two organizations do not necessarily mean it will be clear to voters where all interest groups airing ads this election season are getting their money.
The two groups voluntarily decided to file with the commission as political committees and periodically reveal who their donors are, but there are some political activists who believe that under the Supreme Court ruling, that degree of disclosure isn't required to legally raise corporate and union money for ads that target specific candidates.
The commission has yet to set new rules in light of the court decision that clearly spell out which ad spenders need to register with it, how much information they must give the public about their fundraising and spending, and when. It is unlikely to do so before the November election, when control of Congress is at stake. Legislation that would require those who air ads supporting or attacking candidates to disclose details about their activities has yet to clear Congress.
The Club for Growth told the commission its new committee will raise unlimited donations from individuals for the ads, and that it will run its ads on candidates without coordinating with campaigns, political parties or other outside groups.
The other group asking the commission for guidance on its plans, Commonsense Ten, said it will raise unlimited money from unions, corporations and individuals for ads calling for the election or defeat of candidates.