In the wake of the 2014 midterms, it is estimated that dark money spending -- campaign expenditures from unknown contributors -- topped $145 million. Most of that is spent on outside advertising, which is now largely unregulated since the Citizens United decision ruled that restricting corporations' right to spending in elections is tantamount to prohibiting citizens' freedom of speech.
The increasing majority of these campaign ads are negative, which puts off the electorate and reduces turnout. And most of these ads are now run by outside groups that supposedly have no coordination whatsoever with the candidates that they are supporting -- and if you believe there is no coordination with Super PACs and campaigns, Karl Rove is here to tell you that Ohio just went for Romney. And in 30-second installments, these ads can't say much except try to push buttons.
In other countries, candidates are given evening primetime to tell the public what they are for, as opposed to hiding behind attack ads. Campaign ads are even outlawed. The ideas of prohibiting ads might seem outrageous government overreach, but ask yourself this: When was the last time you saw a TV ad for cigarettes? They were banned from airwaves over 40 years ago, because the threat to the public good was deemed so blindingly obvious, even Congress had to act.
It would similarly be in the public interest to re-examine the hundreds of millions spent on buying TV time, considering that those TV airwaves are already the public's. Networks get their broadcast license from the FCC, then collect piles of money for those public airwaves to disseminate misinformation, since political ads are not bound by accuracy like product advertisements. In Ohio during election time, some local stations stop running shows altogether, and sell the entire hour to political ads, no matter how many times they are run.
Does this sound like a sensible way to engage and inform the American public in the democratic process?
Below is my first installment of Activist Comics, a series of re-imagined comic book covers from the early Superman Action Comics. I sought to use Superman as a voice for campaign reform, because he represents the timeless American ideal of heroism and protecting others.
This reform is one of the Fix Six solutions outlined in my new documentary PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy's High Stakes, which looks at how outsiders are finding a voice to fight our pay-to-play system.