Who Hijacked Our Country

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Anonymous “Dark Money” Political Contributions are Backfiring

Here’s the dilemma.  Let’s say you’re a rightwing millionaire and you’re planning to purchase the next election right out from under the lowly public.  If you donate to a Political Action Committee (PAC), the PAC has to disclose the names of its donors.

When the public starts seeing the nasty attack ads you’ve paid for, they’re gonna say “who’s the cocksuckin’ douchebag that’s financing this shit?”  And then they’ll follow the money right back to YOU.

This is why so many large corporations and wealthy individuals are laundering their money through these phony “charity” organizations that are NOT required to disclose their donors.  You can purchase the election or candidate of your choice and still remain hidden under your rock.  Foolproof, right?

Wrong.  New research has discovered that while attack ads lose their effectiveness when their donors are revealed, the public backlash is even worse when the donors are kept secret.

This study was performed by Conor M. Dowling and Amber Wichowsky.  They used a group of 1,213 participants.  The participants watched a political attack ad from the 2010 election.  For some viewers, the ad showed a list of donors at the end of the ad.  For the other group, the donors weren’t listed in the ad, but later on the viewers read an article about Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the group behind the ad.

The attack ad lost some of its effect among the viewers who saw the list of donors.  There was no change among the people who didn’t see the list of donors but only read the article about American Crossroads.

Dowling and Wichowsky said:

“Our study suggests that voters may be more likely to pay attention to campaign finance data if it is directly and objectively presented, much in the same way that nutritional information is displayed.”

However, the attack ad was the least effective among a group who saw the ad, weren’t shown a list of donors, and then later learned from an article that the ad’s donors were being kept secret.

Dowling and Wichowsky said:

“This result suggests that individuals and corporations could be viewed in a negative light if they do not disclose their donors, which is perhaps one reason why several corporations have decided either to not make political contributions or to adopt their own disclosure policies.”

Maybe this is why Far Right extremists spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the 2012 election most of it from undisclosed donors and they have practically nothing to show for it.

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Blogger jim marquis said...

That's good news. The bad guys underestimated the public's instincts. I was going to say the public's intelligence but that's probably a stretch.

May 9, 2013 at 11:29 AM  
Blogger S.W. Anderson said...

Like Jim said. I do think this is probably more true in an election where most people are engaged, really paying attention. Unfortunately, in many elections people aren't so engaged. Then, if they vote at all, they too often do so on sketchy information gained from headlines, capsule broadcast news segments and attack ads. Maybe post Citizens United, more people are being more skeptical of attack ads. That would be a good thing.

May 9, 2013 at 1:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Jim: You're right, I'd go with "instincts." Intelligence is something to hope for, but so far...

SW: True, these dark money ads will probably be more effective during off-year elections when fewer people are paying attention. Maybe people are paying more attention now after Citizens United. We can hope, anyway.

May 9, 2013 at 1:39 PM  

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