Campaign Ad Hell and Unasked Debate Questions

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October 19, 2012; Source:

By now, many people, particularly those in swing states, may be tired of seeing ads for or against President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Each campaign has just recently released a TV ad that is somewhat unusual, though for different reasons. The Obama campaign’s new “537” ad spot is atypical in that it doesn’t ask voters to support Obama or oppose Romney. Rather, it simply encourages Americans to vote; it must be that the Obama campaign assumes that voter turnout is the key to victory, as this has generally been true for Democratic presidential candidates.

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has released a somewhat unexpected spot of its own, in that it features Clint Eastwood. Some analysts find the choice odd given Eastwood’s performance with an empty chair at the Republican National Convention—a schtick that was considered a “royal bomb” by many pundits in both liberal and conservative circles, and one that some might have assumed would keep the GOP far away from Eastwood. If you don’t live in a swing state, you can watch these two ads here (and if you do, then you probably only need to turn on your TV):

But more so than the content of these ads, Americans—at least those in swing states—are reportedly growing discontented about the sheer volume of ads they are seeing this year in comparison to years’ past. For that, we can thank the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which has helped to unleash floods of secret money into our campaign process. At the same time, as NPQ has noted, the 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations behind much of the spending may be sullying the good name of 501(c)(3) public charities in the eye of a public who may not always distinguish one type from another.

In a “virtual town hall,” Bill Moyers has been asking people to submit questions that they would have like to have heard asked at the debates, but that were not; the Moyers team then pieces together each candidate’s past statements on the issue. One of those questions was, “Will you work towards getting rid of Citizens United?” The candidates’ compiled statements on Citizens United are worth a read by anyone who complains that they are being bombarded by too many political ads—and by anyone in the nonprofit sector who shares our concern that political 501(c)(4) social welfare groups may be severely damaging wider nonprofit sector credibility. –Mike Keefe-Feldman