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Suing "Social Welfare Organizations," Possible?  
User currently offlineNorthstarBoy From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 1835 posts, RR: 0
Posted (2 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 6 hours ago) and read 1320 times:
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I was listening to NPR last night as they discussed the concept of "Social Welfare Organizations" like Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity and how they don't have to identify their donors, with Karl Rove and his ilk even going as far as to say he'll never reveal the names of his donors and he has lots of powerful washington lawyers to crush any attempt to force him to reveal the names of his donors, this wondrance crossed my mind:

The purpose of an advertisement is to convince the public to purchase a product. In the case of a "Social Welfare Organization" their product is a politician. Essentially they want us, as tax payers, to purchase the services of the candidates they support by voting them into office. Now for any other product, it will be identified who purchased the advertizing whether it be Toyota, Nissan, Chevy, or any other manufacturer. We know who's buying the advertisement and we can determine whether or not to purchase a given product based on our perception of the product being advertised. In the case of a politician, we often have no idea who's actually purchasing the advertising because the "Social Welfare Organizations" who often purchase that advertising are actually middle men IMO, they buy the advertising on behalf of someone else. So, my logic went, we, as a population have a right to know who is trying to convince us to purchase the services of a given politician. Yet, these "Social Welfare Organizations," which have about as much to do with social welfare as Apple has to do with microwave ovens, insist on keeping the indentities of their donors secret.

So, I got to thinking, with the FEC not willing to do anything, the IRS not racing to immediately strip the tax free status of these organizations for being what they are, blatantly political, can we, as the electorate file suit as a class affected by this advertizing, against these "Social Welfare Organizations" to force them to disclose the full first and last name plus corporate affiliation of their donors. The purpose of this disclosure would be so that we as consumers can take proper supportive or retaliatory action for or against those donors, as in, either choose to buy or not to buy the products of the company they represent depending on whether or not we agree with political agenda that individual is trying to advance, or if they chose not to name names, require the SWO to cease their advertising?

Nevermind the massive resoures that would be used to try and defeat such a class action suit, could such a thing succeed?


Why are people so against low yields?! If lower yields means more people can travel abroad, i'm all for it
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User currently offlineQFA380 From Australia, joined Jul 2005, 2075 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (2 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 1295 times:

The only reason you know if a company is paying for it is who its for, but you're still not sure who is actually paying for it. Your just assuming that because it is advertising a certain product it is de facto paid for by that person. If you hear a Toyota ad on the radio who is paying for it? Is it the local dealers in the area you can hear the ad? Is it one local dealer who may actually send business to other Toyota dealers? Is it the state or national Toyota office? For all you know it could be a Toyota enthusiast magazine that wants more subscribers. Or the actual purchaser could be an ad agency, similar to a PAC.

The same principle can reasonably be extended to political advertising, if an ad is for a politician you can reasonably assume it is de facto paid for by that politician and you can determine whether you'd like to purchase the politicians services based on the ad. The money would likely have been sent to their campaign anyway, its just easier and more anonymous if you do it through a 'Social walfare organisation'.

As for suing them, these are often fly by night organisations which will pop up for a few months and then disappear. Should they all be sued because of the nefarious ones? Aside from the practical considerations its highly unlikely that you would have any chance of succeeding.
At the end of the day it really doesn't matter who's paying for the ads, its up to the electorate to make an informed decision and if they're not willing to do that there's no point in having a democracy in the first place.


User currently offlineNorthstarBoy From United States of America, joined Jun 2005, 1835 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (2 years 2 months 1 week 6 days 4 hours ago) and read 1272 times:
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As far as consumer product ads go, I think you're right, the manufacturer contracts with an ad agency who lines up the media space and contracts with the production company to make the commercial. So, I think the commercial itself is paid for by the ad agency who in turn is paid by the manufacturer. The viewer can infer, however, that the entity trying to get them to make the purchase is the entity featured in the advertisement, so it's a fairly straight forward proposition.

Political advertising is a lot more convoluted in terms of funding and that's what I object to. I turn on my tv and see an ad telling me in the worst gloom and doom terms how awful candidate A is and alternately how great Candidate B is, then the ad says, "This ad paid for by Crossroads GPS." Well, that's nice, but they aren't the ones who really paid for it in the sense that they accepted x millions of dollars from someone then used that money to turn around and buy advertising. That someone is hoping to convince millions of their fellow americans to "throw the bum out" or put pressure on the bum to vote one way or another on a specific piece of legislation and yet that someone doesn't have the courage to come out and take credit, they hide behind anonymity.

The purpose of a theoretical class action suit would be to force the donors out into the open by requiring the organization to identify them by name.

Quoting QFA380 (Reply 1):
its up to the electorate to make an informed decision and if they're not willing to do that there's no point in having a democracy in the first place.

I actually agree. Sadly, however, the political operatives have discovered that a certain percentage of Americans respond to angry threatening voices narrating scenes of gloom and doom if a certain candidate gets elected or a certain piece of legislation either passes or fails. The only real way to stop these operatives is for people to simply stop responding to their advertisements. Sadly, however, I dont think this will ever happen, so, that leaves us with dragging the financiers out of the shadows and forcing them to own up to their views.



Why are people so against low yields?! If lower yields means more people can travel abroad, i'm all for it
User currently offlineMir From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 21637 posts, RR: 55
Reply 3, posted (2 years 2 months 1 week 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 1218 times:

The right is using a "social welfare" organization to further their political ends?   


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Quoting QFA380 (Reply 1):
Should they all be sued because of the nefarious ones?

You don't have to sue them all, just the ones that you believe are in violation of the tax code relating to whether their organization can do what they are doing while still maintaining a certain status under the tax code.

The term "social welfare" in 501(c)(4) does not cover participation in or interference with political campaigns, and political lobbying on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate cannot be a SWO's primary activity. And if you look at all the money that is spent on these ads, it seems pretty clear to me that that is the primary activity of these SWOs, and thus they could be considered in violation of the code.

Quoting QFA380 (Reply 1):
The same principle can reasonably be extended to political advertising, if an ad is for a politician you can reasonably assume it is de facto paid for by that politician

Not anymore. If an ad is for a politician (or against a politician), you have to consider the possibility that it was paid for by someone else.

Quoting QFA380 (Reply 1):
The money would likely have been sent to their campaign anyway, its just easier and more anonymous if you do it through a 'Social walfare organisation'.

Again, not really. The laws on donations to SWOs are different from the laws on donations to political candidates. So you could end up with more money being donated than you otherwise would.

This is something that needs addressing. People should have the guts to put their name on who they donate to. Hiding behind an front organization is just plain cowardly, and the laws need rewriting to prohibit it.

-Mir



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