Monthly Chairman’s Column – by Mike Lieberman
I now know what it feels like to be an Iowan. Every four years, as the first-in-the-nation primary, you hear about political ads airing in Iowa from presidential hopefuls as early as the summer prior to the election – nearly half a year before any votes are cast. And every four years, an Iowan gets on the news and says how tired he is of watching political ads, even before the election season really starts in earnest.
With Virginia front and center as a battleground state for the first time in four decades, I fear we have become this general election’s Iowa. You cannot watch television in Virginia anymore without your show being interrupted by a political ad favoring one candidate or another. Four months from the election, part of me finds this flattering, as a testament to the hard work we have done to bring Virginia into the purple, if not the blue column.
But here’s the new twist on this old song – this year, when the election ads air, it is impossible to tell who bought them. Even at the end of previous campaign cycles when the political ads came fast and furious, at least the ad would end with a candidate saying who they were, and that they approved this message.
In the wake of the Citizens United ruling, though, that modicum of accountability is now gone. In its place, we have ads sponsored by faceless super PACs with names like “Crossroads USA,” “Grow PAC,” and “Putting America First” whose contributors need never be disclosed.
With the protection of anonymity, these super PACs appear to me to be doing anything but “putting America first.” Rather than contribute reasoned arguments to the public discourse, these super PACs have spewed vitriol that is disturbingly personal in nature, aimed primarily at President Obama, with a dab of anti-Romney messages mixed in.
With this din of negativity, it is no wonder that Americans today take a cynical view of politics; our media outlets talk little about the potential of government, and entirely about who scored the most points and who struck the hardest punch. But this evil is magnified by our not knowing who and where the messages are coming from.
I fear as this election cycle moves on and the race in Virginia pulls even closer, the negative rhetoric will escalate to an even higher, and likely unprecedented level. As Americans, I believe we deserve to know who is feeding us information so we can weigh and discount it accordingly. That’s why I support, and believe Congress should pass, legislation requiring the disclosure of contributors to super PACs, and requiring the heads of such organizations to introduce themselves and “stand by their ads” at the end of each broadcast.
Absent that, I encourage all Virginians to exercise the only choice we really have left against this onslaught – turning off the TV. We can and should demand better.