WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (UPI) -- The theory of transparent campaign finance is being doused by the reality of huge amounts of untraceable cash flowing into the midterm election, observers said.
Fred Wertheimer, president of the non-profit Democracy 21, predicted independent groups will have underwritten more than $200 million worth of campaign ads using money that can't be tracked to its original source by Nov. 2, Politico reported Wednesday.
"And this is just the beginning," Wertheimer said. "Unless we get some changes here to mitigate this problem, I would expect we will see $500 million or more in 2012."
Proponents of tougher campaign finance restrictions say this year's election isn't just disappointing, but a repudiation of their work.
"This is a low point for the campaign finance reform movement -- I've never seen it lower," said Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a non-profit that's been a major player in most legal and legislative fights on the issue since presidency of Richard M. Nixon.
"What's happening right before our eyes is a blatant attempt by outside interest groups using secret money to buy a Congress that will serve their interests at the expense of the American people," Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., told Politico.
Supporters of the looser campaign financing say any restriction abridges freedom of speech.
"It's no secret that the reformers are on the run; they've gotten pounded in the courts and also have not been very successful legislatively," said Brad Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, a non-profit that opposes many campaign regulations and has been involved in several court cases striking down such rules.