The role of money in elections has always been one steeped in controversy and innuendo. Beginning in 2010, that role became even more controversial when a Supreme Court decision set the ground work for a new political mechanism known as the Super Political Action Committee or “Super PAC” for short. Let’s take a look at how a Super PAC can affect an election.
Priorities USA Action
The Republicans, of course, aren’t the only political party using Super PACs. The Priorities USA Action Super PAC was created to support President Obama’s reelection efforts. Its creation represents an odd twist since he had previously had a stated position of being against Super PACs. The power of Priorities USA Action to actually help the President in the election is yet to be determined. Although the PAC has been in existence for years, the President has only endorsed the idea of using a Super PAC as of February 5, 2012, which means it has little funding compared to other Super PACs, particularly those supporting Mitt Romney. That being said, the stated goal of the Priorities USA Action is to raise $100 million dollars, which should more than offset any lead by opposing Super PACs.
So, what is all this money going to be used for? Well, the answer seems pretty clear a media blitz. If you thought negative ads in elections of the past had become odious, you may not want to turn on the television or radio until after the election. The vast majority of Super PAC money used by both sides of the political spectrum since the Citizens United decision has been spent on negative ads. The fight between Romney and Gingrich has been a small appetizer of what is most likely to come. By the time the election rolls around in November, it may well be that there are so many negative ads floating around that they will actually lose most of their impact.
This will be the first Presidential election with Super PACs playing a role, so it will be very interesting to see how things play out. What is clear is we have entered a new era of big money in politics for better or for worse.