Commentary: Supreme Court opened the floodgates on election funds

Whether they're positive, insipid or dispiriting, campaign ads are a fact of our democracy.

But this year, there has been an alarming development: attacks funded by corporations that hide behind the skirt of federal tax codes that govern nonprofit advocacy groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision early this year in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission opened the way for unions and corporations to make unlimited donations to federal campaign entities that operate independently of candidates.

If Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, as is likely, at least some of the credit will go to GOP-oriented campaign groups with benign-sounding names, infused with money from corporations and wealthy individuals.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether or not campaign donations ought to be capped. But on this there can be no dispute: the public should know the source of big donations.

Writing for the majority in Citizens United, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy appeared to be terribly out of touch with how federal campaign finance disclosure works. Kennedy wrote that the advent of the Internet would result in "prompt disclosure of expenditures," providing citizens "with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable."

So much for that dream.

Kennedy should have known that many campaign entities make only occasional disclosure of their donors on cumbersome and inelegant federal websites. Many others, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, are under no obligation to identify donors.

To read the complete editorial, visit www.sacbee.com.