It May Not Seem Like It, But

It may not seem like it, but there will be fewer political ads on your TV this fall now that the U.S. Federal Election Commission (FEC) today declined to ease limits on corporate and union political fundraising in the 60 days leading up to the election.

With just 70 days before the election, had the FEC agreed to the change, there would have been a major impact on how much issue advertising-like the one on Sen. Wayne Allard’s (R) position on health care featured in this Market Place report-flooded our TV sets.

Such advertisements were banned by the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. The proposal failed on a 3-3 vote, with the three Democrats on the Commission voting against it and the three Republicans voting for it. Among the groups that wanted the change were unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. They argued they should be able to educate the public about important issues. “It’s a matter of exercising free speech rights,” Larry Gold of the AFL-CIO told Marketplace.

Campaign reform advocates opposed the rule change.

For viewers out in TV land, you may be asking, “What’s the difference? I already see all those last-minute ads from those secretive 527 groups.”

However, the federal restrictions on corporate and union funding of such ads 60 days before an election also applies to corporate and union funding of 527s registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service; the money has to come from individuals instead.

What this means is that if the FEC had approved the change, and the corporate and union spigot had turned back on, you would have seen a lot more ads on your TV this fall.

But it’s a safe prediction that the folks who wanted the FEC rule change will be back…they always are.