Campaign election laws in need of reform

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We’d guess that all of our readers, regardless of political affiliation, will have at least one reason to rejoice on Nov 3.

That’s when it’ll be safe once more to answer the phone, watch TV, listen to the radio, or pick up the mail. The torrent of political advertising will end.

While we won’t know the final numbers until after the election, it’s clear that Colorado has been a particular target of so-called independent expenditure groups. On Oct. 18, (the last day for which totals were available as we went to press this week), these shadowy organizations pumped $3.6 million into the Colorado Senate race.

Spending on all Colorado campaigns promises to more than double that of 2008. Neither candidates, nor voters, nor the political process have benefited. Cleverly conceived ads, many patently false, have reduced campaigns to dueling sound bites.

What are we to make, for instance, of a TV spot financed by an IEG called the American Action Network which accused Congressman Ed Perlmutter of voting to support a section of the new health insurance law that would provide convicted rapists with Viagra? Pressured by the Perlmutter campaign to check out the allegations, Denver station KUSA pulled the ad. There’s no such section in the healthcare act, and so Perlmutter never could have voted for the non-existent provision.

There’s a tiny kernel of truth in each smear, just as there would be if you characterized your backyard garden as the largest cornfield in America. After all, your garden is in America, and you’re growing corn.

Few media outlets have the time or the resources to vet every political commercial they air. Doing so would not only be expensive, but economically challenging. Those rivers of cash are flowing right to their bottom lines, and the river runs dry on Nov. 2. So they let the voters sort it out.

What can we do about the lying liars of left and right? Until our campaign election laws are strengthened, probably not much more than ignore them.

And remember that libel, slander, insult and innuendo are hardly newcomers to American politics. For instance, during the 1884 presidential election, Democrat Grover Cleveland was accused of fathering an illegitimate child, which he promptly admitted. One delighted cartoonist pictured the mother and child with the caption “Ma, Ma where’s my Pa?” which became the Republican slogan of choice.

Cleveland prevailed against his  foe, “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the State of Maine.”