It’s a sad day when someone looks forward to getting bills in the mail. But that is what it’s come down to in the aftermath of a long, expensive political campaign season.
According to media reports, independent groups on both sides spent a billion dollars, mostly to air 1 million television ads focused on 10 battleground states.
As President Obama was delivering his victory speech, voters around the country could be forgiven for crying tears of relief at the end of the campaign ads.
New Yorkers were not completely spared. As reported by The News’ Gene Warner and Mark Sommer, people became tired of the onslaught.
Julie Bettcher, a corporate tax accountant voting in Hamburg, probably had the best local quote of the day about all the negative campaigning: “It will free up the mailbox so I can see my bills again.”
Just think how those folks in swing states felt. Floridians must have feared television ads more than alligators.
The battle for the 27th Congressional District between incumbent Kathleen C. Hochul and Republican challenger Chris Collins got ugly. Real ugly. Outside groups spent more than $5 million on television ads, largely focusing on attacking the other candidate.
Hochul agreed with frustrated voters and suggested that there has to be a way to curb political action committees and return civility to campaigns. Collins viewed things differently, insisting that his camp stayed positive. That prickly Halloween-themed commercial casting Hochul in a negative light? Not his ad; effective, but not his.
Blame this situation on the super PACs, sprung from the Citizen United ruling that overturned the ban on the use of corporate and union funds in political campaigns.
The important takeaway from this unprecedented campaign season is simple: Reform is needed.
The effort by several Democrats who have introduced constitutional amendments that would overturn that abhorrent Citizens United ruling is a quixotic endeavor unlikely to achieve the necessary super majorities in Congress and the states.
But there are practical steps that can be taken to curb the power of super PACs:
• The Federal Elections Commission should close filing loopholes and update disclosure rules that, as pointed out in Politico and elsewhere, allow super PACs to evade scrutiny.
• The Internal Revenue Service should withdraw the tax-exempt status of 501(c)4 organizations that exist solely to engage in political campaigns.
• And most important, Congress should approve a form of the Disclose Act, which seeks to boost transparency in campaign donations.
The Disclose Act failed in Congress earlier this year, but this ugly presidential campaign may give it a renewed push.
These changes would not cut off the river of cash that is warping politics, but disclosing the source of the cash would return some power to the voters.