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Our View: Campaign laws

Updated: December 8, 2012 6:37AM

The long and expensive election process is at an end. Democracy’s most healthy exercise, voting, is the nation’s best example of the freedoms Americans enjoy and cherish.

We and millions of other Americans were inundated with more than one million television ads by the presidential campaigns and “super PACS” supporting either President Obama or Republican Mitt Romney, and congressional and legislative candidates this year.

Thanks to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision and other federal court actions that unbridled the campaign finance system, corporations, labor unions and other special-interest groups poured unlimited contributions to create and fund the super political action committees, adding more than half a billion dollars to the already eye-popping $800 million spent by both the Obama and Romney campaigns.

Total campaign spending by outside groups exceeded $1 billion this election season, according to the not-for-profit Sunshine Foundation. Nearly $900 million of that $1 billion goes toward attacking the rival candidate.

Unlike Lake Countians trying to exercise their vote, many donors behind super PACs get to remain largely anonymous under the wide-open finance laws. Federal disclosure rules often are circumvented.

Not-for-profit “social welfare” groups, too, funnel millions of dollars through the super PACs for “issue ads,” but those not-for-profits are governed by tax laws and they do not have to reveal their donors’ names.

The lax campaign financing laws essentially give a few wealthy individuals, powerful corporations and labor groups free reign to slap a nondescript name on their blizzard of super PAC television ads, in hopes of convincing voters to back the candidate who will favor the big donors’ objectives.

Once the dust settles on the election, the 113th Congress needs to address the nation’s campaign finance regulations.

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