Hard-hitting political ads against President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Allen West are popping up across Florida in a scramble to define the message of the 2012 elections, still 16 months away.
But the radio and TV attacks — which focus on jobs, Medicare and the federal debt — are not paid by the candidates’ opponents or the Democratic and Republican parties.
They are launched by so-called independent expenditure groups that are forming at remarkable speed, raising tens of millions of dollars and fundamentally altering political campaigns.
And you may never know who those contributors are — or their motivations — due to a provision of law that is increasingly exploited by Republican-aligned groups and, now, Democrats.
Though they decried the practice last election — “A problem for democracy,” Obama said in October — Democrats are racing to create their own groups, trying to prevent a further erosion of power in Washington.
If the 2010 midterm elections seemed a busy time, brace yourself.
“We’re going to see a tidal wave of cash like we’ve never seen before,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the pro-transparency Sunlight Foundation in Washington, which tracks the groups. “You probably won’t be able to turn on SpongeBob SquarePants without seeing political advertising.”
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