Secret campaign ad sponsors. Why?

Can there ever be a good reason for a campaign ad’s sponsors to insist on secrecy?  Can you think of even one?  Reasons, yes.  A good reason, no.  All that comes to mind is a desire to deceive.

So we expand our election season query, “what’s in your mailbox?” to include, “and who is behind it?”  As always, vigilance is the order of the day.  Even if you can make out whatever is written as the sponsor’s name on the ad, there is a good possibility that the name itself is a disguise.

Take, for example, the ad with the talking baby, predicting that the current administration will eviscerate Medicare if “voters do not take action in November.”  The ad was paid for by the Coalition to Protect Seniors.  This organization’s website shows the saddest senior couple, and a call to turn out Congressional representatives with the temerity to support universal healthcare.  Now.

New York Times journalist Mike McIntire reports in today’s paper that he tried to track down the Coalition.  It’s website offers no names or a contact telephone number.  No address.  The reporter’s email via the “contact us” functionality didn’t draw a reply.  The Coalition was incorporated in Delaware, using a generic service to act as registered service agent (required by states so persons with claims know to whom to serve papers).

The Coalition’s mandatory Federal Election Commission filing documents include a Wilmington, Delaware, office building housing a number of other businesses.   Mr. McIntire called some of them – none of whom admitted knowing anything about the Coalition.

The Election Commission’s filing papers noted that most of the Coalition’s expenditures were  made to the Fenwick Group.  When Mr. McIntire called this Fenwick Group, a person answer the phone: K&M Insurance, a broker for seven large health insurance provider, including Aetna, Blue Cross, Humana, and United Healthcare.  We know how theses companies feel about affordable healthcare for all.

Almost at the end of the information trail, Mr. McIntire spoke with the K&M staffer who places the Coalition’s television ads, something he has done in the past.  This staffer said he is not a member of the Coalition, and offered to ask a Coalition representative to call Mr. McIntire.  No one had made that call at the time the article was written.

So an experienced journalist with the resources of the Times behind him could not identify who is funding the ads for the Coalition to Protect Seniors.  The Coalition has spent at least $500,000 since it was incorporated in July of this year; its targets during September were eight Democrats.

Why be so secretive?  Can there ever be a valid argument against transparency in electioneering?  And who has time to do the digging the Times undertook?  Perhaps we voters should adopt a new rule:  Only consider information provided by sources whose funders we can identify by name and agenda.  LLII.

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