GREAT BEND, Kan. - Kansas campaign finance laws contain a huge loophole that allows big corporations to tilt election outcomes with "issue ads" without ever having to report who paid for the ads. The 2010 Kansas legislature should close this loophole immediately.
You've seen the ads on TV, heard them on the radio, or received them in the mailbox, usually days before the November elections. "Call Rep. Jones. Tell him to stop letting dangerous criminals out of jail!" The ads are intended to do one thing: get you to vote against Rep. Jones in the election. But as long as the ad doesn't mention voting or elections, they are exempt from campaign finance reporting laws. In other words, Rep. Jones gets slimed days or even minutes before people vote, loses the election, and never finds out who paid for the ad.
The legislative session runs from January through May, but these "issue ads" always seem to pop up right before elections in November - long after the legislature is finished for the year. So the true purpose of the ad is to defeat a particular candidate, not to influence how they legislate.
As a general rule, Republicans want to keep the secrecy loophole, and Democrats want to eliminate it. This is because Republicans tend to be the party of Big Business and the rich, and only people or entities with money can afford these ads. The average "John Q. Public" voter simply doesn't have ten grand laying around to pay for a big "issue ad".