Episode 57: The dark money blitzkrieg
Who’s behind this season’s nastiest campaign ads?
Tis the season for elaborate costumes, anonymous boogiemen and masked pranksters. That's right, it’s election season.
Across the country, races for the House, Senate, governors and state legislators are being haunted by nasty attack ads. In this week’s podcast, host Andrea Seabrook takes a deep dive into dark money groups, responsible for some of the nastiest ads .
As the co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, Michael Franz tracks political ads on TV stations across the country and collects data on interest groups and their spending. What makes dark money groups so ominous, Franz explains, is they are not required to disclose any information about who their donors are. So it is unclear who exactly is funding them.
“You could Google American’s for America and maybe find their P.O. Box or something, but you wouldn’t necessarily find anything else really about them. And I think that from a simple standpoint of what we know when making decisions [that] this is a troubling development,” he says.
And when dark money groups blast into a campaign, pouring in millions of dollars to bombard it with attack ads, it can totally confuse the entire election.
“You’re going to see a candidate win on Election Day talk about voters having spoken on affirmation of my message and it might not be that at all. It could be an affirmation of the negative messages from unaffiliated organizations,” says Franz.
Because the funders of those ads could be anyone, or any special interest, or any business, voters have no way of judging the real motives of the ads or who is responsible for them. Is that the way we want our democracy to work?