Floridians furious over well-financed and anonymous special interests launching last-minute political attack ads should pressure legislators to rewrite state campaign finance law.
Without a new statute, the political environment promises to devolve even further in the next campaign.
In May, a federal judge struck down the Florida law that regulated electioneering communications organizations, ruling the statute restricted free speech and was too broad. ECOs are no longer required to register with the state and disclose donors or expenditures until filing with the Internal Revenue Service in January -- well after an election's outcome.
Unlike political action committees, ECOs are banned by federal law from the direct endorsement of a candidate or issue. Thus, ECOs turn to sharp attacks.
The ruling validates the First Amendment rights of the condo association that brought the case. The organization argued that the state law wrongly required it to report fund-raising activities just because newsletters contained information on ballot issues, a burdensome mandate on a small group. The judge rightly agreed.
But now voters will not know who's behind shell groups, and they often wrongly blame a candidate for attack ads.
To read the complete editorial, visit The Bradenton Herald.