Burriss on Media: Political Ads

Jul 23, 2012

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (BURRISS)  --  In case you haven’t noticed, it’s an election year, and if there’s one thing we’ve come to expect, it’s conflicting statements by candidates on almost every issue imaginable. But it isn’t just the candidates who seem dazed and often confused. On the subject of political advertising, the public seems as mystified as well.

On the subject of attack ads, every poll and survey seems to confirm the notion that no one likes them, and everyone wants the candidates to stick to the facts, and tell us what they are going to do, not what the opponent isn’t going to do.

But here’s the rub: most people seem to think the other party is the one engaged in negative advertising. Supporters say their own candidate doesn’t do negative ads, or that the other side “started it first.” Of course, both sides can’t be right, so the conclusion is that no matter what the facts, partisans always see their own side as representing goodness and truth, and the other side as representing evil and lies.

Then there is the subject of limits on advertising. Once again, no one wants to restrict their side, because, as we all know, the other side is raising more money and spending much more money on those negative ads.

As you might expect, many people apparently want to limit corporate donations, claiming businesses are not so much buy ads as they are buying elections. But a recent Supreme Court ruling called “Citizens United” prohibits limitations on corporate donations.

So how do we solve these issues? Well, here are two possible solutions: one is to force candidates to tell us the names of every donor, large or small, corporate or private, political action committee or direct donation. This ways we know who is trying to buy an election, and we can compare donations with later policy decisions.

The second answer is to limit how much candidates can spend. This way there is no free speech issues for either donors or candidates. Contributors can give whatever they want, and candidates and parties can spend the money on whatever they want, but only up to the mandated limit.

I think everyone would be in favor of one of these two…but of course, only for the other side.

I’m Larry Burriss