If this hasn't happened yet to you, it probably will in this year of record-breaking spending by outside interest groups: You are watching TV or perusing the Internet when you are confronted by one of those ads telling you that your prospective public servant is a disgusting human being and completely incompetent. Worst of all, the ads are brought to you by a committee or organization whose vague name gives no clue as to its true identity. Then you ask, "Who is doing this to me? "
Sunlight is trying to give those obnoxious ads a transparency makeover! The DISCLOSE Act, introduced Wednesday in the Senate, is designed to bring some accountability to interest group advertising by requiring organizations that pay for them to disclose their top five donors at the end of the advertisement.
"Specifically, the bill will create robust reporting requirements for Super PACs, corporations, unions and nonprofit organizations that decide to make campaign expenditures," writes Sunlight's Lisa Rosenberg on our organization's main blog. "It will also require ads to contain disclaimers by the top officials of such groups, similar to the stand by your ad mandates required of candidates."
To give voters a sense of what DISCLOSE might look like in action, we've taken screen grabs of actual recent advertisements by some key super PACs and, with the magic of some digital editing, shown you what they would look like if the groups complied with the proposed legislation. The names listed represent top donors as of the end of February.
Priorities USA Action: A super PAC supporting President Obama.
American Crossroads: A super PAC established by senior GOP strategists Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove.
Restore Our Future: A super PAC supporting GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney
The DISCLOSE Act presents an interesting question of whom to list when there is a tie among top donors. For example, Restore Our Future currently has a seven-way tie for third place. If DISCLOSE were enacted, the Federal Election Commission would be responsible for resolving such implementation issues.