Funding for some attack ads, mailers, still a mystery in SC

Funding for some attack ads, mailers, still a mystery in SC

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Some organizations who run attack ads around election time don’t have to say where they get their money from in South Carolina.

You may even get mail from them, but there’s a push to change that.

Lynn Teague with the League of Women Voters of South Carolina said groups that influence elections should be required to disclose who their big donors are. “As long as we don’t know who is trying to influence our vote, we can’t consider our sources.”

Two bills at the State House would change that. H.3045 filed by Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell (D-Lancaster) and H.4203 filed by Rep. Gary Clary (R-Pickens) would help shed some light on dark money.

Dark money is money that comes into politically active nonprofits. That money is used to buy ads that advocate for or against a candidate, run phone banks, and make contributions to super PACs. This money usually cannot be traced back to a source. “If it was disclosed that they had a self-interest in attacking someone or promoting someone the voters might not take them as seriously and they might not get what they want,” Teague said.

Earlier this session, an unnamed group sent mail to some South Carolinians attacking Senator Tom Davis (R-Beaufort) and his medical marijuana legislation. Senator Davis spoke about the mail on the Senate floor and believed it was paid for with dark money.

Teague said knowing who is paying for this type of material is important. “In a court of law you know who your accuser is and if you’re being attacked you should know who your accuser is and who are your supporters.”

Some opposed to H.3045 and H.4203 said this legislation could discourage every day people to support causes they believe in, infringe on freedom of speech and lead to possible backlash.

Teague said these bills target people who can make impacts on elections. “We want to know who is putting in tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands into our elections.”

The bills are currently in committee.

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