Voters can get way more useful information from scanning campaign finance disclosures than from watching political attack ads.
Problem is the attack ads are flying but there hasn't been a campaign finance report in the governor's or other statewide races since July.
And there won't be until Oct. 7, a scant 32 days before the Nov. 8 General Election.
With money flowing into elections in greater volumes than ever before, and from corporate and union treasuries which was not allowed until a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling last year, disclosure is even more critical to voters making informed decisions and maintaining a functioning democracy.
In this Kentucky governor's race, in addition to all the money being raised and spent by incumbent Steve Beshear and his main challenger, state Senate President David Williams, at least two independent groups are putting big bucks into influencing voters.
We know from television station records that a Louisville-based campaign committee called Kentucky Family Values has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on ads attacking Williams since the primary. It has a Web site and is soliciting donations, which can be unlimited. But we have no idea who's donating and won't until Oct. 7 when the group files its first required report in four months.
In recent days, a pro-Williams committee, Restoring America, registered as a Kentucky corporation with officers from Ohio. It reported Thursday that it has paid Strategic Media Placement, the Columbus, Ohio firm that produced Sen. Rand Paul's TV campaign, $1.4 million for broadcast ad buys.
Like the candidates running for statewide office, Restoring America is also required to file a report with the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance Oct. 7. But if it uses a loophole available to groups registered under Section 527 of the Internal Revenue Code, voters won't know until after the election — if ever — who's putting up the dough.
Loopholes like the one for 527s should be closed. And candidates and independent political committees should be required to file more frequent disclosures of who's giving.
A Kentucky task force in 2005 recommended more frequent disclosures. Various bills to increase frequency of disclosure and to require electronic filing of finance reports by campaigns raising more than $25,000 have never won approval by both houses in the same session. That needs to change in 2012.
We live in an age when a check or attack ad can fly across the globe in an instant. Political contributions and spending in the races for governor and other statewide offices should be posted on the Internet as soon as the campaign or committee record them.
A three-month lull in reporting at a point in campaigns when fund-raising and spending are feverish is ridiculous.