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CounterPAC Takes Aim at Campaign Ad Spending

Some tech entrepreneurs and campaign reform activists have launched CounterPAC, which will advocate for full disclosure of the funding of political ads and push candidates to reject any so-called "dark money" from groups that won't fully disclose where their money is coming from.

Ever since the Supreme Court lifted the limits on corporation and union funding of electioneering ads in the run-ups to federal general elections and primaries (the Citizens United case), election reform advocates have been trying to force greater disclosure of the funding of ads from PACs and other third-party groups, whose so-called "dark money" they say is taking over elections.

Were the CounterPAC campaign to succeed, it could cut into broadcasters political ad take, which has gotten a boost from the influx of new money, both "dark" and light.

"We are a group of concerned citizens who see a need for change in our political system, and aren’t willing to wait for Congress or the Supreme Court to fix the problem of unregulated anonymous money," CounterPAC said on its Web site, whose design reflected the tech-savvy of its constituency.

The group Thursday targeted both of the candidates in three key congressional races in Alaska, Georgia and West Virginia--taking out ads in three states calling on candidates to not only repudiate all "secret money" but to donate money to a charity of their opponent's choice each time a group spends "secret" money on their behalf.

The goal is to have both candidates agree. "[L]ike an arms race, they are unlikely to eliminate dark money unilaterally; they are much more willing to disarm if the other side disarms as well. Hence the bilateral nature of the pledge."

That has extended to a constitutional amendment that has passed out of committee in the Senate and to calls for the FCC to boost its disclosure requirements for political ads.

CounterPAC is funded by Jim Greer, founder of game online company Kongregate, and founding donor Matt Cutts, who heads Google's Webspam team. Among its backers is Harvard law professor and campaign finance reformer Lawrence Lessig and former MoveOn campaign director Robin Beck, who is CounterPAC's strategy director.