Commentary: Super PACs need transparency

Alaskans Standing Together, the coalition of regional Native corporations that spent more than $1 million to help Sen. Lisa Murkowski's write-in campaign, has drawn national attention.

Little wonder. It's hard to say whether the "super PAC" (super political action committee) was decisive in Murkowski's victory. The candidate herself said she doesn't know.

But the group's swift and massive spending on Murkowski's behalf provided a real-world example of what the U.S. Supreme Court's "Citizens United" decision of January means to U.S. elections.

That ruling and another essentially freed corporate, union and other groups to spend unlimited amounts of money in supporting or opposing a candidate -- providing they do so without any coordination with the candidate or campaign. Citizens United reversed precedent, and changed the political landscape.

Alaska responded swiftly to the court's January decision. Before the end of the legislative session, lawmakers had approved extensive disclosure requirements for Alaska organizations that sought to take advantage of the Citizens United ruling. The thinking was simple -- the Supreme Court's decision made such free spending the law of the land. No state could change that.

But we could at least require that the players identify themselves, giving voters a chance to know just what interests they represent in their massive spending, and thus able to make judgments about why they would invest so much in a candidate.

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