Tagged: election 2012

How Could A Super PAC Affect An Election?

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.

Election 2012/>  <strong>Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission</strong>  The Super PAC was created indirectly pursuant to the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Prior to this decision, direct contributions to political campaigns by unions and corporations were prohibited. The new conservative leaning Supreme Court struck down this rule and suggested that both entities could make unlimited contributions to political causes, but not directly to politicians running for office. From this, the Super PAC was born with one stringent restriction. Unions and corporations can contribute unlimited amounts to these new PACs, but the politicians the PACs support cannot interact or direct them in any way.  <strong>Impacting Elections</strong>  The run up to the 2012 Presidential Election has shown clearly how Super PACs can affect an election. In this case, the impact has been seen in the Republican primary process where candidates such as Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have either benefited or been hurt by Super PACs. The key thing to understand about Super PAC efforts is that they are independent from the politician they support. As such, they can run very aggressive and often questionable ads without tainting the politician they support. In the initial Iowa primary, the Super PAC supporting Mitt Romney ran endless negative ads about Newt Gingrich that effectively ruined his chances in the state. Not to be outdone, the Winning Our Future Super PAC that supports Newt Gingrich ran a brutal short movie in South Carolina that denigrated Mitt Romney with some very questionable claims. Many felt it led to Newt's win in the state. This wrangling has all been small potatoes, however, compared to what we will see in the general election.  <img src=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.

Practical Impact

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.

What is a Super PAC?

What is a Super PAC? Definition.

A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a group formed to support the eventual outcome of an election to public office or a specific piece of legislation, and all groups raising or spending more than $1,000 are regulated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Severe restrictions are placed on these PACs concerning their activities, including but not limited to individual contributions of $5,000 per year and factual reporting of the identity of the donors.

Super PAC

However, the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC opened the door to the creation of Super PACs, which do not have any limitations placed on the amount of monetary contributions they receive. Disclosure of donors’ identity is voluntary and such identity can furthermore be easily obscured by accepting donations from affiliated non profit organizations, which by law only have to disclose such information to the IRS and nobody else.

What is a Super PAC? Limitations, advantages and main activities.

Super PACs are forbidden to have official direct contact with the candidates they support. The two key words are official and direct. Although not allowed to directly coordinate efforts with the Super PAC, candidates can still communicate their desires to their supporting Super PAC via public media or through speeches.

Two recent new studies, one performed by U.S. PIRG and the other by Demos, recently reported 6.4% of contributions as untraceable, meaning that the identity of donors is unknown. This has led to vigorous debates over possible foreign contributions to influence the outcome of U.S. elections, reminiscent of the 1990s brouhaha and subsequent investigations brought on during the Clinton-Gore re-election campaign.

Thus far, Super PACs have mainly limited themselves to running negative ad campaigns against the opponents of their favored candidate, an increasingly popular election campaign strategy. No politician of any stripe will frown on such a practice and the biggest advantage to a running candidate from having the support of a Super PAC is the simple fact that the candidate has the ability to disavow such ads.

What is a Super PAC? The political culture according to Stephen Colbert.

With the assistance of his attorney, fomer FEC Commissioner Trevor Potter, comedian Stephen Colbert has created his own Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, to raise public awareness about what he considers the absurdity of campaign finance laws in regard to Super PACs. His Super PAC is apolitical and is not designed to support any candidate per se, but has provided fodder for his comedic talents.

What is a Super PAC? The 2012 election campaigns.

* President Obama
The U.S. President has recently thrown his support behind a Super PAC by the name of Priorities USA Action, although he has repeatedly criticized the disproportionate influence of special interest groups on elections.

* Newt Gingrinch
Winning Our Future is the vehicle of choice for Newt Gingrich and reported $1.17 cash on hand through December 31, but no mention was made of the $10 Million donation received from Sheldon Adelson and his wife.

* Mitt Romney
His Restore Our Future Super PAC reportedly spent $15 Million in January 2012 on ads prior to the Florida primary.

* Rick Santorum
Going by the name of The Red, White and Blue Fund, this Super PAC supposedly is backed by wealthy investor Foster Friess. Rick Santorum denied any knowledge of what transpires within the Super PAC, although he admitted that he has been friends with Foster Friess for 20 years.

Until campaign finance laws are revisited, Super PACs seem to destined to become a major driving force in election campaigns. Candidates are already blurring the line even further by giving their representatives the green light to make speeches at Super PAC fundraisers.