"My beef is not with GAB -- GAB's beef is with the first amendment."
That's how One Wisconsin Now's Scot Ross put the fight over the Government Accountability Board's new rules on financial disclosure for political advertising.
According to Ross, the new rule, which is aimed at forcing third party political ads to disclose their financial backers, will result in a giant headache of paperwork for every email and press release he puts out.
Ross doesn't specify what ideal campaign finance regulations would look like, however, he believes the regulations have gone too far when they shut down what he considers "issue advocacy." Although virtually every statement the org releases attacks a Republican candidate for office, Ross says the criticisms are simply part of OWN's advocacy for liberal causes, such as tax reform and environmental protection.
The new rule expands the definition of "political activity" that can be regulated. In the past, only communications that expressly advocated the election or defeat of a candidate would be subject to GAB regulations. However, the new rule states that any communication that is "susceptible to no other reasonable interpretation other than as an appeal to vote for or against a candidate" is subject to disclosure rules.
Given the broad definition for "political activity," Ross believes the law will hurt groups who are traditionally non-political, such as the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the League of Women Voters and the NAACP. Will these groups be forbidden from mentioning any candidate for public office within 60 days of an election?
That is not the impression the head of the Democracy Campaign, Mike McCabe, has of the new rule. He's a big fan and has called the lawsuit OWN filed with the Club for Growth "frivolous." In a blog post, McCabe alleged that OWN and the Club were distorting the issue to hide their real motives for being against financial disclosure:
Never mind that the rules don't prevent them from airing any ad or otherwise spreading any message, but rather just require them to disclose how much they are spending and who's paying for it. They know that being for free speech is better than standing for secrecy, so they are relentlessly spinning this as a First Amendment case.
Special interests that want to own our government know that if the electorate is made fully aware of who they are and where their money comes from, voters will be much less likely to buy what these groups are selling.
Apparently McCabe is out to lunch (literally, not figuratively) so I didn't get to talk to him for the post. I hope to talk to him soon.