In fact, this kind of journalistic probing should not be reserved solely for the independent expenditure groups who have attracted so much attention this cycle in the wake of the Citizens United decision and toothless FEC oversight. Ideally, political reporters would also press each presidential campaign and party committee to reveal the terms of its major contracts with outside consultants. This should, in theory, be a simple question of the media upholding the rights of small campaign contributors. It is akin to the way the press has long protected donors from corrupt or self-serving charities.
In all likelihood, both presidential campaigns would refuse to go beyond FEC-mandated disclosure requirements, perhaps by claiming that any additional information about consulting contracts would undermine their secret-sauce strategies. (Color me skeptical that knowing who is raking in, say, five percent of the vast Obama or Romney media buy is a legitimate trade secret). But even if the campaign high commands resist unraveling their complex arrangements with consultants, reporters should—at a minimum—note this insistence on secrecy in their stories.
As admirable as all the efforts by the political press corps and foundation-backed groups to chart the sources of campaign donations may be, that is only half of the double-entry bookkeeping side of the ledger. What is missing is an equal curiosity about where campaign funds are going and who is profiting from all the spending. The fall presidential election campaigns will be a $2 billion business—and that alone should invite some long overdue press scrutiny of the inner workings of Politics Inc.