Ron Johnson, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate for Senate in Wisconsin, has enjoyed the support of several outside groups during his election campaign: he benefited from $1.3 million in television advertising from various political action committees and other groups, including ads from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that attack his opponent, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI), for his support of health care reform.
Such groups are not required to reveal who is funding the political attacks. As ThinkProgress detailed last week, the Chamber of Commerce may be using foreign funds to support its attack ads in the United States, which would be a violation of federal election laws. Last night during a debate in Wausau, WI, Feingold pressed Johnson to call on these groups to disclose their funding sources. Johnson agreed and called for disclosure:
JOHNSON: You want to be able to select who can have free speech and who doesn’t want to have free speech.
FEINGOLD: I want everybody to have free speech, but I want them to be able to — as you just said, they ought to disclose. You haven’t even called on these people to disclose. You just said you’re for disclosure. You won’t even call on them to disclose.
JOHNSON: I’d be happy to have them disclose.
FEINGOLD: Well then why don’t you ask them to do it?
So far, the Chamber has refused to provide evidence they are not using foreign money to fund political attacks, saying “We are not obligated to discuss our internal accounting procedures.” Perhaps if more candidates like Ron Johnson that benefit from Chamber attacks call for disclosure, the Chamber will feel compelled to reveal the well-heeled special interests behind their unprecedented political ad campaign.