Iowa Politics with Jeff Stein — Fri. Oct. 16, 2020

Iowa Politics with Jeff Stein — Fri. Oct. 16, 2020

Good Talk

For the last few days, we’ve been having “the talk” about political advertising on radio and TV, and we’ll finish the topic now.

If you think this year has been different in terms of ads, you’re right…there have been many more of them than in the past, and they started earlier and therefore have been running longer. Democrats in particular seem to have a money printing machine in the back room, because they are spending large amounts to be heard even within programs whose hosts don’t agree with them.

There are differences between candidate ads and ads placed by groups that advocate a certain position, encouraging you to vote for a certain candidate. They are supposed to be separate, but as we saw this week with an Iowa candidate’s campaign directly requesting an ad buy be made by one of these groups, that rule is generally ignored.

Some of them are backed by the political parties themselves, designed to encourage greater numbers of their candidates. Others are backed by unions and others who are willing to pay to have their voices heard. And despite candidates who claim they’ll stop the impact of the so-called Citizens United Supreme Court case, they can’t.

That’s because the Court ruled in that case that buying ads is a form of free speech, and government-regulated media (like this radio station, which operates under a government license) can’t discriminate against speech in that way. Over the past half century, the Court has ruled broadly concerning speech, including making non-verbal signals a form of protected speech. So it’s not a surprise that limiting how much speech someone can buy is prohibited. And that has led to the explosion of issue and election advertising, and the insane amount of money spent on political campaigns, including Iowa’s U.S. Senate race this year being the second most expensive in American history.

You don’t like it. We don’t like it. And the campaigns don’t like it. But no one will step up and be the first to try running for office without it.

There…good talk. Hope it helps you understand why you hear what you do.