On Super Money

There is a difference between right vs. wrong and agree vs. disagree. Anyone can be wrong, but a disagreement does not mean the person is wrong. Yes, this post is about a disagreement I have with the courts.

In the US, there are Political Action Committees (PACs). The primary differences between the two types of PACs rest in the amount of giving and the disclosure of the donor. While the right/wrong nature of Super PACs lies with both court rulings and one’s conscience, agree or disagree again may lie within one’s conscience, but most likely rests within one’s political philosophy.

Two articles caught my attention. The first is by respected conservation columnist George Will. Although I do not always agree with him, I respect his writing and use of history. The second by David Keating and Ed Crane, who boastfully claim to be the parents of Super PACs.

Both articles compare election spending to purchases by American consumers of mundane items as potato chips and Easter candy. Although this seems innocent on first glance, there is a fundamental flaw in their analogy. For instance, the following is Mr. Will’s closing:

We hear, yet again, the reformers’ cry: “There is too much money in politics.” This year, the presidential campaigns combined may spend almost $2 billion, which is almost as much as Americans will spend on Easter candy.

Yes, this Easter, many Americans will purchase candy to share with a selected few – most likely family members. The selective action by many for the enjoyment of a few significantly affects the candy industry. On the other hand, Super PACs use the large contribution(s) from a few to influence the lives of many by imposing their political will.

Mr. Keating and Mr. Crane are directly associated with the Center for Competitive Politics and the Cato Institute. Many times, using a word as center, institute, council, foundation, and others is a tipoff for a Washington special-interest organization – thus reader/listener beware. Moreover, yes, their organizations fit my description.

Mr. Keating and Mr. Crane state,

“Money is the proxy for information in campaigns … that means information was available (in South Carolina) and more interest in the campaigns has been generated.”

When watching Super PAC ads, it is overly clear that their message is about promoting an ideology – not to inform citizens. These organizations will distort information, use quotes out of context, and probably even lie to misinform the public to guide citizens to the PACs preferred political position.

Yes, I disagree with the ruling that gave us Super PACS, but the ruling was not wrong. I would change it if I could, but I don’t know to what. So, I close with my variation of Keating’s and Crane’s closing: It’s simply too bad that organizations behind the Super PACs don’t put their trust in the people’s “faith in freedoms and in the wisdom of the voters.”

Entire Articles

37 thoughts on “On Super Money

  1. i know this is cliché, however, i disagree with the results of superpac’s, but i support their right to conduct business as they do. if a group of people want to pool money in order to support a candidate, they should have the right to do so. just as i support the right for a group of crusty old white men to form a golf club in which only crusty old white men can be members. just as soft (not crusty) young (not old) black (not white) women (not men) have an equal right to form a basketball (not golf) club that only soft young black women can be members.

    i’m sure i drifted from the original point.

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    • RMV,
      Disagreeing with the result but supporting their right to exist is an interesting way to think about these. Interestingly, I wonder why the court didn’t say the money couldn’t go directly to the campaign? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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      • well, it’s like those who talk about howard stern by saying, “i hate what he says, but i will fight for his right to say it.” i wasn’t happy with the supreme court decision because i’m normally leaning left, and the rule normally favors the right. had i been more of a GOP-er, well that’d be different i suppose.

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  2. On what grounds do you agree with the operation of Super Pacs?
    They are only allowed to be for/against issues, but are pro/against candidates. They are also not allowed to confer with the candidate, but do.

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    • Guapo,
      I only agree with them on the grounds that the high court has blessed them, hence why they are not wrong. During the South Carolina primary, the Stephen Colbert’s actions about Super PACS was brilliant because all he was doing was informing us through comedy. Sure, no conferencing, thus a close friend runs it. Simply ridiculous.

      “They are only allowed to be for/against issues, but are pro/against candidates.” I haven’t heard this .. are you sure? After all, that is not the way they are behaving. Thanks for commenting.

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      • I’ve been unable to find a good citation for my note on candidate support, but will keep looking.
        I’ve seen Colberts pieces on SuperPACS, and think he’s done a great job.
        In the same vein it is legal for the candidate to discuss in the media things he would like a superpac to do, then for the pac to listen, just like everyone else that hears the interview…

        And while I agree that it is legal based on the court decision, I think they’re wrong, and sometimes the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.

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        • Gaupo,
          There’s the key to your statement … “the spirit of the law” … Thus why I think my crystal ball foresees campaign money going directly to the candidate without a cap … but who knows when that could happen, which (of course) will bring another set of issues. Around and around the Merry Go Round goes.

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  3. These plutocrats with millions to burn, I hope they are equally distributed in numbers and money between lefties and righties, so they just cancel each other out. Then it is a shame that so much good money is wasted.

    Plutocrats financing and controlling elections will lead to disaster. The court overturned rules set in place by Teddy Roosevelt who knew that corporate feasts would be bad for democracy. I do have a solution. You must pay a 90% gift tax on the money granted to the Super Pacs. It is legal as gift taxes are constitutional and they already call the contributions gifts under the campaign laws.

    Lastly, why did they have bring up Easter jelly beans. I love them. By my family tradition no candy can be eaten during Lent. And I still have weeks to go.

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    • Randel,
      The big donors obviously have a lot of money – more than I can even consider. I keep wondering about how much good they could do with it for the economy by helping new businesses. Oh well, my head is too high in the clouds. Love the gift tax idea, thus will have to keep that in mind. Great point about jelly beans. Hmmmm … maybe I do a jelly bean post soon! 😉 Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Hi,
    Not much difference between our 2 countries on this one.
    I hate political ads, they drive me nuts, if there not running down the other side, they are feeding us spin.

    I did smile and even shook my head however at a politician bringing Easter into the argument, I totally agree with you what you said.
    Isn’t it so much fun when elections are due, Thank goodness we vote on the 24th March in our State election so we are nearly there in my little part of the world. (sigh)

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    • Mags,
      At least you can see the end is near with voting soon … then keep me in mind as we have a long way to go. Meanwhile, as ours ends in November, the spin for 2016 begins the next day! Thanks for sharing from OZ.

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  5. I don’t know what’s going on with politics but the waste is getting out of control – and not just in the USA but here also. Oh, and thanks for your lovely comment on my last post. I’m a hugger too but I just felt a bit awkward at the moment because he was standing there with his wife and I just felt like she could have seen it as inappropriate. It was such a bizarre evening that, while in that moment, I just didn’t know how to behave! xx

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    • Spiced,
      It’s all about simple power theory – those in power want to keep it and those outside of power want it because they don’t have it. Besides, each represents a group of interests, thus follow the money. In terms of your moment, if you were unsure what to do, you made the right decision. Thanks for commenting.

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  6. Your thought provoking entry on Super PACs, and the resulting comments confirm the belief that “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the alternatives.” Given that I both agree and disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, I choose to (1) not watch or listen to any Super PAC sponsored television or radio ads, or phone messages, (2) not take seriously any views about Super PACs coming from cable news shows or talk radio, (3) take somewhat seriously views on Super PACs coming from Public Broadcasting, and, most important, (4) READ and take seriously EVERYTHING in print – including anything written by a Super PAC – so I can use my BRAIN to ponder their value before I contribute to political campaigns, volunteer to work for political candidates, and enter the voting booth.

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    • Tim,
      I know that you are both well read and have a preferred political view. Given the latter point, I also know you regularly and openly read columnists with an opposing view point to yours. Bottom line – you do what you can to stay informed. In terms of the Super PACS, wait until the fall campaign will bring forth of the Democratic ones. Oh boy! Thanks for commenting.

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  7. “Anyone can be wrong, but a disagreement does not mean the person is wrong.” – If the American people could get their self-important heads around this one, politics would be far different, and I would no longer feel a need to bury my head in a media-free hole every four years. Thanks for the great post.

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    • Twixt,
      I recall a discussion at church when someone said I was wrong on something. I simply leaned forward, and calmly but sternly said, “We may disagree, but I am not wrong in this case.” Later, my pastor said he liked the line and may have to use it in the future. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Thank you, Frank, for leaving a comment on my blog. I confess to being one of those citizens who avoid politics, even though I understand and believe I am obligated as a citizen to be informed and influence the direction our nation takes. There is a part of me that wants to “do my part” but in all my years (I, too, am a b-b) I have never followed an election campaign that didn’t shame our nation in some way. I loathe the lying and the buying of votes with money and deceipt. I admire you for doing the right thing. Would that integrity rather than money decided elections and our nation’s course.

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    • Dave,
      Welcome first-time commenter. Politics is such a crazy topic. I actually started this blog during the 2008 campaign (late-August) with being a prime topic, but not the only topic. Since that time, I generally limit politics to one post per week plus Friday regular post of Opinions in the Shorts. As an independent moderate, I like it when Republicans call me a Democrat and the Dems say I’m a Republican. Meanwhile, as I said on a reply on your blog, I tend to cover a wide array of topics – in the end, providing something for everyone.

      Thanks for visiting and hope you return again … but I’m not sure what tomorrow’s post will be.

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  9. Great post, Frank. Yeah, the elections have become a mess because it’s easier than ever to buy influence and opinion. This in turn breeds apathy from a feeling of powerlessness. It seems like the only way to be political nowadays is in your own neighborhood, where everyone is on a fairly equal playing field.

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  10. The danger of so much money, especially corporate money, in financing political campaigns is the very real possibility of getting special treatment from those in power. Citigroup threw money at McCain in 2008 until they realized Obama might be the eventual winner. Then they started throwing money his way and ended up being one of Obama’s largest campaign contributors. Perhaps they were not supporting political platforms, but were hoping to gain influence or special treatment from the eventual winner. How did that work out? Oh yeah, they received a huge bailout, still paid large bonuses to top executives and there still has been no significant reform in the financial industry that is unable to self-regulate to prevent the sort of implosion that occurred in 2008.

    No, I am not a fan of super PACs and corporate money financing political campaigns.

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    • Sandy,
      There is no doubt that many contributors seek something in return … thus way some either play both sides of the fence or switch to the favorite. I say this as a reminder because many people forget this: the financial bailout that you mentioned started in the previous administration. I don’t say that as for/against either President Bush or President Obama, but just as a matter of clarity. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts!

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  11. Americans, like myself, who will be buying Peeps may help the candy companies with their profits. SuperPACs buying ads may help (or hurt) millions of people. The influence is incomparable. I wish there wasn’t that much money in politics, but at this point, it is what it is. They found an easy way out of the maximum contribution laws. I don’t think we’ll ever go back to life before SuperPACs

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    • Spinny,
      Your last statement says a lot – and I see that too. Besides, First Amendment ruling by the Supreme Court aren’t the easiest to overturn. Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts.

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  12. Well said/written, Frank. I’ve been considering my own campaign against the ads that are forced on us by the Super PACs. Many of the commercials we’re seeing now urge us to call someone (a representative, the President, etc.) and let them know how we feel. I’m guessing the purpose behind this is to inundate the “wrong doer” (made to look and sound evil) in the ad with phone calls from a disgruntled opposition to whatever it is the Super PAC doesn’t want them to be doing. I would like to start a campaign of calling the Super PACs (the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance) to let them know that people are unhappy with their ads, inundating them with calls from disgruntled opposition to exaggeration, misinformation, misdirection, and flat out lying. My husband says they won’t care. He’s probably right. Still, it might be fun to tie up their phones for a change. If only I had the capability of robo-calling. 😉

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    • Robin,
      Very well said. It would be interesting for citizen groups throughout the country to bombard their own reps and senators with robo-calls! By reading the information about National Do-Not-Call, political groups are sadly exempt. Since that legislation was done before the robo-call invasion, it doesn’t mean the law can’t be amended. Then again, do we really think members of Congress would pass something that hinders their messaging? Oh well … I can only imagine how will bombarded during the fall campaign. Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your thoughts.

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  13. I think that the Super PACS have the ability to swing elections and that the Supreme Court opened the door to endemic corruption in our political process. I would be less worried about their impact if I had more faith that Americans will remain discerning and well informed.

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