Instead, corporations are funneling their money to trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or other groups that can air election ads, often without having to disclose their donors.
The desire for anonymity may have gotten an extra push when Target Corp. faced a backlash for its $150,000 donation to a Minnesota political group that was running ads in support of conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
What we will see is corporations not wanting to anger their shareholders, not wanting to anger their retail customer by getting involved in partisan elections," said Paul Ryan, a senior lawyer at the Campaign Legal Center. "Instead they will employ strategies to obscure the fact, or hide completely the fact that they are dumping money into politics by routing their money through groups like the Chamber of Commerce."
The Chamber plans to spend $70 million in elections this year. It has already devoted more than $5 million to advertising campaigns helping Republicans in Senate races in Massachusetts, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio and New Hampshire, and for Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas.