* Cross posted from the Huffington Post
Like the Greeks mounting assault after assault on Troy, James Bopp ceaselessly assails federal campaign finance law in an attempt to destroy it. In the summer of 2007, Bopp delivered his Trojan horse: a clever attack on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA also known as McCain-Feingold) to the Supreme Court by a group called Wisconsin Right to Life. The decision under the new conservative Court gutted BCRA’s restrictions on corporate spending on campaign ads aired directly before federal elections.
Now Bopp is aiming to dismantle one of the main pillars of campaign finance regulation with a conservative front group ironically named Citizen United. This time Bopp has targeted BCRA’s rule requiring disclosure of who is paying for political advertisements. This attack is even more fundamental than the last. Without disclosure of who is paying for an ad, it would be impossible for voters to properly assess the meaning of the message. An ad about a candidate’s stance on the environment would be viewed more skeptically by voters if they knew the ad was paid for by Exxon Mobil. If Americans are robbed of this key information, voters could easily be misled and informed democratic choice would disappear.
Bopp and his ilk wrap themselves in the First Amendment and claim to be battling for the public good. But what they are really doing is pushing subterfuge. A democracy needs clear and candid information about campaign sources of cash, including who ponied up the big bucks to buy an election attack ad.