The Edmond Sun


June 23, 2014

OUR VIEW: Bring ‘dark money’ into the light

EDMOND — Several statewide races this primary season have tacked toward the negative as no candidate has appeared to have a clear majority ahead of today’s primary voting — particularly in the U.S. Senate unexpired term seat being vacated by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee.

But more often than not, it’s not the actual candidates’ campaigns that have delved so easily into half-truths, misdirection and outright lies. No, those ads are attributed to vaguely named 501(c)(4) groups that have gained the term “dark money” groups.

With the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010, corporations gained the ability to spend as much as they want for candidates while individuals are held to $2,300 in contributions per cycle in federal races, meaning individuals can chip in up to $7,900 if a candidate makes a primary election, runoff election and the general election in a campaign. In a state race, individuals cannot give more than $5,000 per election campaign encompassing all three elections.

“Dark” appropriately describes these backroom groups who apparently can say anything they want — whether it’s the truth or not.

Many of these television ads have bordered on defamation of character but there’s no one to hold responsible. These groups do not have to disclose who is contributing funding to them. And therein lies the real problem.

If they want to lambaste the other candidate, that’s fine, but do so in the light of day so that if something does go wrong the people responsible can be held accountable. It’s the morally right thing to do. It’s a pretty simple concept that we learn in elementary school — own your actions and be honest about them. Even Facebook does not readily allow anonymous posting to its social media site. If Facebook can enforce some decorum when people want to make claims we’re pretty sure the government should be able to figure it out.

It wasn’t that many years ago that a municipal election regarding the zoning for the Spring Creek retail area had its own brush with a group financing negative advertising without naming who was paying for it in an effort to sway the vote their way. The City Council was asked to change municipal law to require groups who try to sway Edmond elections to be held more accountable.

The State of Oklahoma since has figured it out and now requires municipalities to enforce certain accountability rules in campaigns with the signing of Senate Bill 1745 this year.

With examples at all levels of government, it’s clear that this issue needs a lot more sunshine exposing dark money groups’ shenanigans. The only way to get there is for voters to inform themselves well, choose the best candidate and ask them to help change the law.

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If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
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