Monday, September 27, 2010

Lies in the Name of the Free Market

Center for Media and Democracy

A powerful advocacy organization has made a big impact on this midterm election cycle in states across the country. Americans for Job Security (AJS) has spent millions of dollars on attack ads targeting candidates they view as anti-free market. While this group believes in the free exchange of capital, they are vehemently opposed to the free exchange of information, at least when it comes to their sponsors. AJS has routinely denied requests for a list of donors. As a 501(c)(6), they do not have to reveal this information. But the IRS has stated that any 501(c)(6) group whose "primary purpose" is political activity, must name their donors. The Washington Post reports that AJS spends the vast majority of its budget on television and radio ads before elections. Groups such as Public Citizen have complained to the IRS about AJS' abuse of its tax-exempt status. But the ambiguous nature of the IRS' "primary purpose" standard has allowed AJS to continue spewing attack ads every election cycle.

Beyond the Pale

In addition to being shadowy and secretive, AJS' ads are often misleading, completely untrue, and even offensive. While attacking Congressman Zack Space, AJS stated that he voted for "job-killing energy taxes." AJS is referring to Space's vote in favor of a cap-and-trade system designed to slow global warming. While it is arguable that a cap-and-trade system will cause businesses to pass costs on to consumers, it cannot be equated to an energy tax.

AJS also accused former Colorado Lieutenant Governor and Republican Senate candidate Jane Norton of growing "the state bureaucracy by $43 million in just 3 years." While the state budget did grow by this amount during Norton's time in office, it was not because of her actions. Spending grew in Colorado because of an increase in federal funds, not because of any increases in taxes.

In a very disturbing case, AJS disseminated a television ad geared toward defeating Arkansas Senate candidate Bill Halter that has generated charges of racism. The TV spot depicts numerous Indians thanking Halter for outsourcing jobs to India. The ad's detractors have argued that the ad promotes stereotypes. In addition to being racist, the ad is not true. The Securities and Exchange Commission reported that while WebMethods did open a center in India while Halter was on the board, it had no effect on the loss of jobs in America.

Americans for Job Security joins all the other front groups springing up in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, which gave corporations the right to spend unlimited funds to influence elections. These groups allow corporations to do just that while remaining anonymous. This kind of election hanky-panky makes SourceWatch an even more important resource for voters seeking the truth about suspicious groups with "feel good" names that suddenly appear and run over-the-top attack ads against candidates.

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