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PACs Too Close To Campaigns

January 27, 2012 by  

PACs Too Close To Campaigns

Political Action Committees are dominating the 2012 Presidential election season with millions of dollars from wealthy donors, unions, corporations and other outside groups funding an advertising war between the candidates.

The Supreme Court’s decision in mid-2010 in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission unleashed these so-called “super PACs” when it ruled that political spending is a form of protected speech under the 1st Amendment. That gave corporations and unions the right to spend money to support or denounce individual candidates in elections.  Despite the ruling, contributions made directly to a Federal campaign from a corporate or labor union treasury was still illegal, but the same type of funding could legally be given to a political action committee in support of a campaign or issue.

The super PAC didn’t become so super until SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, in which it was decided that the independent expenditure political action committees could pool contributions and make expenditures in support of or opposition to a candidate provided that the expenditures were made independently of a campaign or a candidate. The organizations are required to disclose donor information on a monthly or quarterly basis, but often loopholes keep the information from surfacing until long after an election has ended.

Critics of super PACs say that the organizations are fundamentally altering the democratic process by pumping massive sums of money into mind-bending ad blitzes that end in bought-and-paid-for elections and elected officials who are certainly corporate puppets. The finance laws concerning super PACs dictate that they must operate completely independent of the candidates whom they support, but most campaign finance experts say that it is very unlikely that the candidates have nothing to do with their super PACs’ actions.

A recent article by Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll notes some pretty cozy relationships between super PACs and the 2012 Presidential candidates they support:

Restore Our Future— Mitt Romney
Carl Forti: political director of Romney 2008 campaign
Charles Spies: CFO and counsel of Romney 2008 campaign
Larry McCarthy: media adviser of Romney 2008 campaign

 

Priorities USA Action—Barack Obama
Sean Sweeney: former Obama White House aide
Bill Burton: former White House deputy press secretary

 

Winning Our Future—Newt Gingrich
Rick Tyler: former Gingrich spokesman and aide
Becky Burkett: former chief fundraiser for Gingrich’s American Solutions for Winning the Future

 

Solutions 2012—Gingrich
Charlie Smith: former aide

 

Revolution PAC—Ron Paul
Joe Becker: chief legal counsel to Ron Paul 2008 campaign
Penny Langford Freeman: political consultant and Paul’s political director from 1998 to 2007

Winning Our Future (pro-Gingrich) super PAC director Rick Tyler recently appeared on MSNBC claiming he has no communication with Gingrich, but said he can stay in step with the campaign because of their long history together.

“I’ve been with Newt a long time and I can dance with his campaign and not coordinate, so I’m not worried about it [discussing plans with Gingrich],” Tyler said.

The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Tyler had plenty of funds for his “dance” with the Gingrich campaign after casino mogul and Israel advocate Sheldon Adelson gave $5 million to the PAC. Pundits speculate that the funds were used to produce a half-hour movie, “When Mitt Romney Came To Town,” that portrayed Romney as a “predatory corporate raider” during his years at Bain capital.

In all, the most recent Federal campaign disclosures indicate that super PACs have spent more than $35 million on the 2012 Presidential race so far. According to CNN, more than half of the spending has been for political attack ads on behalf of Gingrich and Romney.

The candidates have a love-hate relationship with super PACs. The organizations allow for nasty and sometimes misleading attacks to be made against opponents without candidates having to take responsibility for the information provided; but, they also have to spend a great deal of time defending or disavowing the actions of the super PACs that support them.

During a debate prior to the South Carolina primary, Romney spoke out against the use of super PACs.

“Let people make contributions they want to make to campaigns. Let campaigns then take responsibility for their own words and not have this strange situation where we have people out there who support us, who run ads we don’t like,” he said.

The Romney supporting Restore Our Future PAC, under the control of the candidate’s former staffers, has run the majority of Romney’s television advertisements and spent $16,724, 439 on his behalf, according to PAC Track.

After the Romney PAC spent nearly $3 million attacking Gingrich in Iowa, the former House Speaker accused Romney of “buying millions in attack ads through a phony super PAC run by his former staff, paid for by his millionaire friends.”

Washington journalist Eliza Carney, said during a recent PBS appearance that she did not believe that PACs are holding up to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

“Well, it’s worth saying that there are certainly those who think these super PACs are a good thing, that they’ve enhanced speech and that there’s more competition now,” she said. “But it’s also true that the Supreme Court said, these entities will not be corrupting because it’s independent and it’s fully disclosed. And I think, arguably, neither of those premises is really being borne out by the reality of modern campaigning.”

Other politicians and public figures also believe that super PACs have hurt the democratic process and are acting in protest to the organizations. Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown, who is up for re-election this year, has made an agreement with his Democratic challenger, Elizabeth Warren, to fight the influence of PACs in their race. According to U.S. News, the candidates have agreed to pay a penalty of half the amount of money an outside group pays to run TV or Internet ads against the other candidate. The money will be given to charity, and the two have asked broadcasters to support them in their efforts to curtail PAC influence.

Comedian and faux conservative talk show host Stephen Colbert has long been critical of unenforceable super PAC rules. Colbert created his own PAC in 2011 called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow and has used it to launch off-the-wall satirical pseudo-political ads, including one that advised Iowa voters to write in Rick Perry as their Presidential choice, but to spell his name “Parry,” with an “A” for America.

Colbert pointed out the ridiculousness of assuming candidates have no contact with their super PACs in a recent episode of The Colbert Report when he signed his PAC over to fellow comedian Jon Stewart and renamed it The Definitely not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert Super PAC so that he could “explore running for President of The United States of South Carolina.”  Stewart then assured the audience that there was no way the two could “work out a series of Morse-code blinks to convey information with each other” concerning the PAC. Below is a video of Colbert’s super PAC transfer episode:

Sam Rolley

Staff writer Sam Rolley began a career in journalism working for a small town newspaper while seeking a B.A. in English. After learning about many of the biases present in most modern newsrooms, Rolley became determined to find a position in journalism that would allow him to combat the unsavory image that the news industry has gained. He is dedicated to seeking the truth and exposing the lies disseminated by the mainstream media at the behest of their corporate masters, special interest groups and information gatekeepers.

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  • skip

    Well, now we all realize that our political process has been purchased, empowered by the now corrupted Supreme Court and its Citizen’s United decision. The citizens certainly got screwed over good – they will have no chance against the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and their fellow travellers, who are pouring unrestricted tens of millions of dollars into the super PACs at their will. These two in particular are worth over 20 billion dollars each, and ten million dollars to buy an election and purchase a president is merely pocket change. The Republican presidential candidates, who have been benefited or assaulted by these super wealthy super PAC contributors, are publicly objecting to them. Too bad guys – the Tea Party was funded and transported by the Koch Brothers, the country, the presidency, the congress has been or will be bought, the super-wealthy given even greater control over us, and the ordinary citizen and middle class has been sold down the river. You asked for it, and now you’ve got it – you let these hyper-rich guys buy as they convinced you of a bunch of absolute nonsensical issues and unsubstantiated accusations. You have just entered the permanent underclass as they took advantage of your narrow vision and bigotry to gain your support.

    • s c

      Flip, are you stumping for votes, or are you sucking up to The Appointed Nation-Destroyer? Some people will read your bathroom rant and not see what they need to see. I saw it, comrade. Tacky, predictable and a half-assed form of holier-than-thou. Pitiful.

      • skip

        The only vote I am stumping for is a fair, free, and non-purchased vote. All PACs should be eliminated, and the horrific lobbying influence needs to be reined in if not eliminated, if it is not made transparent and public. Our Congress has progressed to the status of a brothel with all this money being thrown around. Unfortunately, the President is a prisoner of the Congress, and the Congress is a prisoner of the lobbyists and the re-election process, and the re-election process is for sale to the highest bidder – e.g. Koch brothers, Adelson, Wall Street, and the like. This is tragic at best, catastrophic for certain.

        • Vigilant

          “Unfortunately, the President is a prisoner of the Congress…”

          Are you daft, skip?

          Congress has abdicated most of its Constitutional responsibilities every time Obama uses an excutive order, regulatory agency or czar to bypass the process. EPA, NLRB, DOJ, et. al., have no Constitutional power of legislation, but they are doing it all the time, with impunity.

        • Vigilant

          skip, you must really hate Obama. One of the first promises he made, as a candidate, was that he would accept only public campaign funding for his run. Then, suddenly, when his Chicago advisors told him how much he could make otherwise, he immediately broke his promise.

          Did you get off the boat just yesterday?

          • skip

            I’m not happy about it but fire has to be fought with fire. What we have since the brothel of the Supreme Court handed down the Citizens United decision is about a trillion times worse. When the Republicans squeal, you can be sure it is an abomination and essentially then end of our nation as it was intended to be. If you think you are part of a “grass roots” effort or organization, you’d better check to see who is paying for the signs, the buses, and the gatherings. The roots are green alright, as in greenbacks from PACs, Kochs, and Adelsons. We are wholly owned subsidiaries of these guys. When 20 million dollars or so of pocket change from a multibillionaire can we a couple of state primaries, you can be sure our national goose is cooked. Ron Paul is the only one of the remaining 4 to sincerely warn us about these dangers.

    • Vigilant

      I’m really enjoying watching the liberals squirm over this SCOTUS decision. For decades, the political landscape in this country has been tilted in favor of the left. What galls skip and other leftists so much is the realization that the playing field is now being leveled.

      For all of his bluster, skip will never check out http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php because it clearly shows that the lion’s share of political influence, by billions of dollars, has been the contributions from leftist organizations such as public and private sector unions. In fact, if memory serves, the very first PAC was a labor union PAC.

      How “fair” (to use a favorite liberal word) is it that unions take dues from members of all political persuasions and then use those dues to support Democrat candidates only? That may be “fair” to a liberal, but the man on the street with common sense and an IQ over 85 can see the disconnect and unfairness of such a system.

      It’s no coincidence that “on its central point, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Justice Stevens’s dissent was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22scotus.html )

      The activist judges knew that taking away the liberal advantage in politics would hurt their cause. Obama knows it too.

      • s c

        Vigilant, it’s a waste of breath, time and effort to try and educate a hardcore utopian. In s’s case, it’s a pure waste of time, breath and effort. What he has done is whiz and moan about the ‘other’ side, but he REFUSES to see that his White House god is doing the same thing as those he hates.
        The polite word is HYPOCRISY. HOW do utopians ever get out of school? We’re supposed to think utopians are compassionate and give a damn. We’re supposed to think anyone who’s not a hardcore utopian is not compassionate, is ‘mean-spirited’ and all the rest of the predictable CRAP utopians love to throw at us.
        I have as yet to meet even ONE utopian who hasn’t got his or her head rammed so far up his or her lower orifice so far that seeing, thinking and breathing is physically impossible. ‘S’ in particular, is delusional and is literally ‘full of it.’ If he applies himself long enough, he might escape the 8th grade (if he can buy his way ‘out’ of school). Pitiful.
        Haavid, you can have him and every utopian who ever lived. Just keep them out of ‘public service,’ law, education and the military, please.

  • Sirian

    For those that aren’t clear as to what PAC’s truly are or when they came about:
    political action committee (PAC), U.S. organization formed by a corporation, labor union, or association to raise money for political activity. Funds can be gathered by voluntary contributions from members, employees, or shareholders. Political action committees were first organized in the 1940s. The Political Action Committee organized by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in 1943 was a model for later PACs. Since the election reform of 1974, which limited individual campaign contributions and set guidelines for PACs, their numbers grew rapidly to more than 4,000 in 1988; they now number about 3,800. Many represent special-interest groups, e.g., the National Rifle Association of America; others represent large conservative or liberal coalitions. Most PACs have directed their contributions toward congressional elections, in which they can contribute up to $5,000 to a candidate for each campaign (primary, runoff, and general election). Some, however, have conducted independent negative campaigns against candidates they oppose. Increased campaign contributions by PACs have raised fears that legislators may accede to pressure from these groups and become less responsive to their constituents. Federal legislation enacted in 2002 forbids attacks on candidates by name immediately before an election.

    • Vigilant

      Help is at hand for the voter who is too lazy to do research or is ignorant of the issues (that covers about 4 out of 5). There is a rule of thumb that is elegantly simple but unerringly accurate in determining which candidate should get your vote.

      The process is easy: first, determine who is endorsed by the unions. They have spent thousands if not millions on research, so they have already done the work for you without an outlay of one penny on your part.

      Second, determine your vote as follows:

      If you reject the founding principles of the United States, Capitalism, private property and individual freedoms, and wish to see the destruction of our economy, vote for the union-endorsed candidate.

      If you have an abiding respect for the founding principles of the United States, Capitalism, private property and individual freedoms, and wish to see the economy recover in the fastest possible way, vote for the other guy.

  • SMSgt Z ret NAM 68

    A 50 dollar voucher to every voting citizen to give to the politician of there choice.No more union money,corporate money, no privet donations No pac’s no super pac’s etc ,etc.Just a one time voucher every year to the voting citizen to the politician of there choice.After we the citizens take back our politicians our second task will be to rein in lobbing
    In 2008 only 68% of us voted in 2010 only 41% voted The eligible 217,342,419 citizens of voting age 235,940,406 voter turn out 90,732,693

    • skip

      You are right on the mark. I hope others respond to your wisdom. It is time for the 24th amendment to eliminate any kind of funding for any election except by the mechansim you describe, or something similar.

      • Vigilant

        24th Amendment? What the Hell does a poll tax (or any tax) have to do with the issue?

        The issue was a First Amendment decision.

        • skip

          Not a poll tax – the opposite!

  • pasoman

    The right hand of “established power” is proving that money can and will ram liberal Romney into the GOP ballot! The left hand of that same “established power” is sticking with it’s proven liberal left overs that have looted this country more efficiently than ever in history.

    The acorns, unions, trade associations, corporate giants, foreign nations, enemies, and all bring gifts and homage to the “established” outstretched hand (right or left doesn’t matter – goes to the same end place). Bow, kiss the ring, and be blessed according to your gifts.

    If any country deserves captivity and damnation, we’re it and we’re drowning in it right now.

    Over a hundred years ago, the US dealt with monoplies & thrived for many years after… but the concentration of wealth and power today is global and complete into all aspects of life, justice, economics, and politics

  • http://libertydigest tina

    I think they should give each candidate 2 million each period. Let them use it the best way they know how. End.

  • http://lamebrained-ideas.blogspot.com C.Davis

    Google MOP (money outta politics)

  • Vigilant

    I’ve had a comment “awaiting moderation” for over an hour now. What’s the deal?

    • libertytrain

      Good grief, it is the weekend. Did you put more the one link, did you use an unacceptable word…. again, good grief the way things work has been posted so many times that I’ve taken to posting them to remind people….

      • Vigilant

        I attempted to post the following comment today at 1:14 PM. Since that time, it has languished with the statement “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” It would appear that comment moderation is amongst the lowest of priorities of the monitors of this site.

        Therefore, I re-post the comment in its entirety with “sanitized” URL links, as follows:

        I’m really enjoying watching the liberals squirm over this SCOTUS decision. For decades, the political landscape in this country has been tilted in favor of the left. What galls skip and other leftists so much is the realization that the playing field is now being leveled.

        For all of his bluster, skip will never check out opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php because it clearly shows that the lion’s share of political influence, by billions of dollars, has been the contributions from leftist organizations such as public and private sector unions. In fact, if memory serves, the very first PAC was a labor union PAC.

        How “fair” (to use a favorite liberal word) is it that unions take dues from members of all political persuasions and then use those dues to support Democrat candidates only? That may be “fair” to a liberal, but the man on the street with common sense and an IQ over 85 can see the disconnect and unfairness of such a system.

        It’s no coincidence that “on its central point, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Justice Stevens’s dissent was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.” ( nytimes.com/2010/01/22/us/politics/22scotus.html )

        The activist judges knew that taking away the liberal advantage in politics would hurt their cause. Obama knows it too.

      • Vigilant

        P.S. to libertytrain: that was EIGHT hours ago.

        • Vigilant

          And now it’s been almost 24 hours. Still “awaiting moderation.”

        • libertytrain

          PS to vigilant…it is the weekend….

  • Karolyn

    With all the money they’re spending, they could end World hunger!

  • jopa

    Vigilant writes that he likes to watch the Liberals squirm after the Citizens United decision was passed.I believe both sides should be squirming after that decision in that we don’t know who or what country or organization is bribing the ones supposed to represent the American people.When Obama rakes in his one billion then Vigilant will be squirming and screaming WTH.Our country should have transparency and some on the Supreme Court need to go.Nam 68 has a good idea that I could go along with, the vouchers.

  • s c

    In case anyone hasn’t figured out what Obummer is doing to America via this election, he’s buying ‘friends,’ easy votes and he’s trying to manipulate the votes of those who have no use for him. People, this is exactly what Obummer means when he dares to talk about the ‘redistribution of wealth.’
    It means using America’s wealth to make us slaves. And his jockstrappers are so damned STUPID that they don’t have a clue as to what he’s doing. Making your ‘friends’ wealthy at the expense of the American people is about as low and as sleazy as anyone can get. To think otherwise is to admit that you’ve surrendered the right to be called human. Even Hitler never tried THIS level of criminality. Compassion? Character? Transparency? Utopianism is TRULY a mental disease, and it’s full-blown and highly contagious in Washington, people.
    Don’t hold your breath waiting for a cure from the retards at the FDA.

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