The presidential candidates are Jejomar Binay, Miriam Defensor Santiago, Mar Roxas, Grace Poe and Rodrigo Duterte.
Except for Senator Miriam Santiago, all of them have been spending a lot of money for print ads, tarpaulin and other kinds of posters, radio and TV jingles, commercials and documentaries, social media postings. Collectively they have already spent scores of billions for their campaign and are expected to spend much more until the elections in May.
We, the public, can guess that the very rich ones among them are spending some of their own money. Or in the case of Mar Roxas, using his money, as well as money from the gigantic vault of the Liberal Party, which has been enriched by President Aquino, Budget Secretary Abad and Transport and Communications Secretary Abaya (who is the LP big boss.)
But even Mar Roxas and Vice-President Binay, we are sure, get financial contributions from wealthy individuals and corporations. Who are these?
And of course, Senator Mrs. Grace Poe Llamanzares and Mayor Rodrigo Duterte are also receiving contributions. Who are their donors?
And who are the very powerful persons, said to have inexhaustible bank accounts, who have been whispered about as the backers not just of Mrs. Poe-Llamanzares’ vote-getting campaign nationwide but also of the expensive legal effort to make her qualified to run for president if she is clearly not qualified if the election laws and the Constitution are obeyed? This legal effort is rumored to now involve billions to make sure that—God forbid—some of the Supremes decide to oppose the correct and moral stand on her citizenship and residency disqualification.
In the United States many citizens are also demanding to know who the moneybags of the candidates are.
Below is the wise and high-minded editorial that the Seattle Times published on Tuesday Feb. 2 and which we are allowed to reprint as a member of the TNS group of contributor newspapers.
Americans should know who’s funding political TV ads
Television watchers need to brace themselves for the worst this election season.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are likely to be poured into political ads narrated by ominous voices and designed to influence voters’ ballot choices.
Some commercials, paid for by campaigns, will conclude with candidates saying they approve the message. Viewers should be extra skeptical of any ads brought to them by independent political action committees with benign sounding names like Priorities USA Action, Believe Again, Unintimidated PAC and Right to Rise USA.
Such names reveal nothing about who the true sponsors of the advertisements really are. The Federal Communications Commission, which seems to turn a blind eye, should require more transparency and has the authority to do so:
—Section 315 of the Communications Act requires broadcast stations to identify sponsors of political ads in files available for public viewing. Not every station is complying, according to extensive research by civic watchdog groups, such as the Sunlight Foundation, the Campaign Legal Center and Common Cause.
—Section 317 requires advertisers and broadcasters to disclose to viewers and listeners the “true identity” of the person, group or entity paying for a political ad.
Many don’t, and the FCC has failed to enforce this rule.
Last week, 168 Democratic members of the US House of Representatives signed a letter urging FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to quickly require that broadcasters reveal the names of political-ad sponsors on the air.
According to OpenSecrets.org, conservative groups by far dominate this type of campaign advertising.
Democracy is weakened when influence over the public airwaves is controlled by dark-money groups, whether on the right or the left, which have the power to raise and spend unlimited funds.
Citizens have a right to know when and why mega-rich individuals, such as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the industrialist Koch brothers, pour their wealth into advocacy. That’s why the FCC must do more as a regulator to restore trust in American democracy by ensuring campaign commercials are more transparent.
©2016 THE SEATTLE TIMES / DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.