A Smoking Gun in Kentucky

The year since the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened up our elections to unlimited corporate spending has been one of big bucks and little information. While what the Supreme Court might have imagined was a political system with flawless transparency and unlimited access to information, what he have ended up with is exactly the opposite -- a pre-Watergate system of cash packed in suitcases...only with much bigger suitcases. Big donors with plenty of money to spend have unprecedented influence over our elections, and voters are left to pick through murky pieces of evidence to try to figure out where that money's coming from and what it's paying for.

While secretive groups like Karl Rove's American Crossroads GPS have sprung up this year to funnel corporate interest money to help out pro-corporate candidates, without robust disclosure laws, efforts to pin down these groups' donors and motivations have been largely based on rare small leaks and inference. We know for certain that there's a big money pay-to-play political system going on, but we can only guess at who's paying and what exactly their game is. Last night, ABC News uncovered one of these games:

In the bitter U.S. Senate race in Kentucky, a local millionaire has helped launch a barrage of ads attacking the Democratic candidate -- a candidate who, as the state's attorney general, is prosecuting the businessman's nursing home for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, records show.

The businessman's name is Terry Forcht. And like many super-wealthy conservative donors who are quietly stoking the GOP's mid-term election surge around the nation, the extent of his investment in the 2010 campaign is both vast and, for now at least, largely unknown.

In addition to donating personally to Republican Rand Paul's upstart campaign, Forcht is the banker handling funds for American Crossroads. The conservative group was founded by Republican strategist Karl Rove and has, through its non-profit arm, American Crossroads GPS, channeled millions into this year's campaigns without identifying its donors.

So, a Kentucky businessman is bankrolling a campaign against the man who, as Kentucky Attorney General, is prosecuting his company for a sexual abuse cover-up. We know that he's active in American Crossroads (the branch of Rove's group that has to disclose its donors). But, because of the lack of disclosure laws, we have no idea how much money he's channeled through the secretive American Crossroads GPS to attack the man who's enforcing the laws that he has been alleged to have broken.

Not that we need another smoking gun to expose the power of secret money in this election, but this one is unambiguous.

Huge election expenditures from secret sources may be legal, thanks to congressional Republicans' unified effort to sink the DISCLOSE bill earlier this year, but they're also fishy. This is what happens when matters that should be played out in public view -- from sexual abuse lawsuits to tax policy decisions--are instead played out in the expensive behind the scenes election market. The extraordinarily wealthy have extraordinary power to help elect candidates who will promote their interests. And middle class Americans are left to be pawns in the game that only a few citizens -- and corporations -- can afford to play.