Kathleen Sebelius sees 'dangerous' flow of anonymous campaign cash

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said she has seen dozens of political ads paid for by generic-sounding organizations with anonymous money.

Michael Bonfigli/Special to The Christian Science Monitor
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told reporters at a Monitor Breakfast Thursday that she's concerned about the flow of anonymous campaign money.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has visited 26 states selling health-care reform legislation and says “there is money flowing in unbelievable ways” around the country that the funding is “very anonymous.”

At a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters in Washington on Thursday, Secretary Sebelius, the former Democratic governor of Kansas, said, “the untold story of 2010 is not the "tea party" or not the health-care bill, or a number of these issues. It is the amount of money that is flowing in districts around the country and particularly the amount of anonymous money.”

A key reason for the increased amount of anonymous cash is the Supreme Court’s January 2010 ruling in "Citizen’s United versus Federal Election Commission." The high court decision makes it possible for corporations and unions to donate anonymously to nonprofit civic leagues and trade associations who can then turn around and spend the funds on political advertisements.

“I haven’t been any place where there aren’t dozens of ads now being run and nobody knows who is behind them,” Sebelius said. “I am used to a political system where people engage in battles and you know who brought them to the dance. And that becomes part of the discussion.”

The Secretary argued that for voters to determine which campaign advertisers are on their side “is difficult if not impossible right now and I think that is pretty dangerous.”

At the breakfast she was asked about a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll which asked respondents about potential outcomes of the 2010 elections. One potential outcome was “the health-care reform plan that was passed earlier this year is repealed.” That was viewed as an acceptable outcome by 51 percent of those surveyed and unacceptable by 39 percent.

Sebelius argued that as people understood the Affordable Care Act better, more citizens would support it. “It is frustrating at times to talk to folks who still have no idea [and] repeating some of the myths of the past. I remind myself after 18 months of debate and a lot of misinformation and a couple of hundred million dollars worth of TV ads that drove that misinformation I shouldn’t be surprised that people have some beliefs about what is or isn’t.”

Still the secretary admitted, “I get sort of frustrated at times that … I am debating in some ways mythology, but it is real as far as people are concerned, so that debate needs to continue.”

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