Political science professors say knowing source of ads is important

by: Torie Wells Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

In the flurry of political ads, if the music, the images or the people catch your eye, does the last second that says where the ad is from catch your attention?

Wingate political science professor Dr. Joseph Ellis and UNC Charlotte political science professor Dr. Eric Heberlig say that it should, especially when the ad is for or against a candidate.

"You need to know where your information is coming from, who is supplying that information, do they have any reason to supply you a particular viewpoint?" Ellis said.

"It tells you who cares that they get elected," Heberlig said.

The fine print in the ads says they aren't authorized by the candidate. But often, Heberlig said, voters don't pay attention to that.

"The studies we've done on this, people don't differentiate between the candidate ads and the other ads," he said.

But Heberlig said the rules are different for these outside groups.

"They can get money under different types of restrictions," he said.

Eyewitness News looked into some of the national groups running ads in the presidential election.

Priorities USA Action's website says it's committed to the re-election of President Barack Obama. As Eyewitness News looked through its Federal Election Commission filings, we saw donations from organizations like the National Air Traffic Controllers Association PAC, United Auto Workers Education Fund and American Federation of Teachers COPE.             

The American Crossroads website says it's against President Barack Obama's re-election. According to Federal Election Commission filings, it received money from the AT&T Inc Federal PAC and from companies like Clayton Williams Energy and Stephens Inc, a financial services firm.

Some of the outside groups are also raising money and spending it to try to elect Mitt Romney or oppose him.

Eyewitness News also looked at ads people are receiving in the mail.

"Americans for Tax Reform, it's a name that doesn't tell you anything," said Heberlig as he looked at one ad.

Eyewitness News looked up Americans for Tax Reform. Its website says it is a nonprofit lobbying organization that opposes tax increases. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, this type of organization doesn't have to report donor names to the Federal Election Commission, under the law.

Heberlig said that makes it more difficult for voters to know where all the money is coming from.

Both professors agree the outside spending in a tight race could give one candidate the extra push with some voters.

"The goal is to win the election," Ellis said. “If any of these groups can do that, can give momentum or steam, then that's all that matters."

There are several different types of outside groups spending money in this election, with different rules.

Many of them say what type they are on their website.

You can then track the money on the Federal Election Commission website

Opensecrets.org is a good resource as well.