Gaming of Contribution Reporting Rules Rampant in Midterms, Watchdog Says

Courthouse News Service

The 2018 midterms saw record spending by candidates of both parties, but it also broke records for a new kind of campaign funding scheme: gaming campaign finance reporting data to delay the release of donors until after the race ends.

And while the schemes were used by both parties, the new report by the non-partisan campaign watchdog group the Campaign Legal Center found spending by SuperPACs surpassed that of traditional party-affiliated groups for the first time ever this past campaign season.

“Money in politics are increasingly becoming concentrated in a handful of politically connected super PACs, and those same super PACs are finding new ways to disguise their spending from voters,” said Corey Goldstone, media strategist at the Campaign Legal Center.

But the scheming didn’t end there. The growth of social media use by the American public has lead to an increase in spending by political groups hoping to reach that new digital audience. 

Adav Noti, senior director of trial litigation at Campaign Legal Center, said this new reality created a perfect storm of obscured campaign spending. “The FEC has failed to provide meaningful guidance as to how its 1970s-era rules apply to modern digital advertising,” he said. 

The solution? Expanding federal reporting laws to include digital spending by passing the Honest Ads Act. “Voters have a right to be fully informed about who is trying to influence their vote through online political ads,” said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal reform program at the Campaign Legal Center, while advocating for the Honest Ads Act.

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