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October 25th, 2010
09:45 AM ET

Opinion: Who's funding attack ads? It's a secret

Claire McCaskill
Special to CNN

Editor's note: Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, sits on four Senate committees: Armed Services, Commerce, Aging, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, where she heads the effort to examine possible waste in federal contracts.

(CNN) - What do they have to be ashamed of?

Several years ago, I caught one of my kids sneaking out of the house. Like any mom, I was more than a little mad and demanded an explanation. "But Mom, I wasn't doing anything wrong - I was just hanging out with my friends," was the response I got, but I knew better. The truth is that if you don't have anything to be ashamed of, you have no reason to be sneaking around.

This election season, special interests are sneaking around trying to influence voters by funding the attack ads you see on TV. With the help of a recent court ruling, they can do it all anonymously. It's hard not to think it's because they have something to be ashamed of.

In January, the Supreme Court gave corporations, unions and special interest groups the power to influence elections in an unlimited and anonymous way. In an unprecedented move, the court, the same majority who decried an activist court when they were nominees, legislated from the bench and overturned years of previous case law, striking down longstanding limitations on campaign spending from special interests in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Before Citizens United, corporations and unions could not spend money to run ads expressly advocating one candidate over another. Now they can. But what is worse, they can anonymously donate millions of dollars to "nonprofit" groups, which buy the ads without having to disclose who truly paid for them. The ruling essentially opened the barn door to anonymous, unlimited corporate donations to sway voters.

Americans have a lot to be frustrated about right now with our economy, and I know many are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to weigh in on the country's future by voting on November 2. The idea that special interests are trying to secretly buy this election should make their blood boil.

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