WASHINGTON — The League of Women Voters has offered strong support in the past for disclosing who pays for political advertising, but the voter education group this morning would not name the donors funding its TV ads attacking Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown—at least not this year.
“We comply with the spirit and the letter of the law and report all contributions in our annual reports,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters, in a phone interview.
The group’s annual report covering 2011 will be out early next year, she said.
Just last fall, MacNamara offered a passionate call for more disclosure of funding behind political advertising:
“Secret money, whether foreign or domestic, has no place in America's democracy,” she said in a statement last September, in support of federal legislation that would have forced more disclosure. “Voters have a right to know -- whether it is a corporation, union, trade association, or non-profit advocacy group making unlimited political expenditures and influencing elections. This is not only common sense – it is crucial if voters are to remain the cornerstone of our democracy.”
Reminded this morning of her earlier statement in favor of disclosure, MacNamara said the group’s current ad “is not about an election 18 months from now—this is about a vote [Brown] took last month.”
The group is running ads against Brown and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri over environmental issues. Both senators are up for reelection next year. The ad against Brown, which started April 29, shows a young girl struggling to inhale, and accuses Brown of standing with polluters when he voted in favor of stripping the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases.
Brown has complained vociferously about the ad. In a column published in the Boston Herald he accused the League of going “into the gutter” with the attack on his record.
The senator’s political adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said the League, which maintains that it is nonpartisan, is going easier on McCaskill because she is a Democrat.
“The McCaskill ad is much softer, and they are spending far less in Missouri against her than they are against Scott Brown in Massachusetts,” Fehrnstrom said in an email. “The only conclusion that can be drawn from these facts is the League made a partisan decision to go after Scott Brown. The McCaskill ad is just cover.”
The two ads are not identical, but MacNamara said comparisons between them are “extremely subjective” and that the ads were designed to do the same thing: “To bring out the facts.”
Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.