Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said at the Republican National Convention she expects candidates and their allies to spend a minimum of $5.8 billion on federal campaigns this year - an all-time high.
"Much more of the money than previous cycles will be made up of unlimited, undisclosed donations," she said.
Voters should b careful about secretive groups with innocent-sounding names that often fund dishonest political ads, she said.
"Despite the patriotic name, it may in fact be one donor. Maybe a member of Congress has jurisdiction over their company or industry through their congressional committee assignments, who knows? We have to all be vigilant in this cycle, because there's a lot of hidden messages."
This year, Krumholz said many huge super-PACs are masquerading as charities to dodge disclosure. She says the Internal Revenue Service has been investigating...
"But they risk pushback from Congress that doesn't like what they view as meddling in politics. Their hand has been slapped and they're cautiously proceeding."
Krumholz said disclosure rules for charities are nearly nonexistent.
"We know ultimately very little, and will by and large not know, who is funding the biggest and most political of these nonprofits until well after the elections - if we ever learn."
Some fundraisers defend the system, saying campaign donations are an extension of free speech. But Krumholz said politicians and donors are building relationships they can use to their advantage. She said everyone in the political elite knows who is helping whom while citizens are left in the dark.
The website Opensecrets.org is good source for information on political spending.
- Florida News Connection