Thursday, January 19, 2012

Not so super?

With the approaching anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that allowed for Super-PACs to raise as much money as they want in support of a political candidate, the news media are turning their attention to that controversial ruling.

The Los Angeles Times reports that politicians, political groups and others are among the people and groups debating the merits of the law.
Most of the major super PACs are run by longtime associates of the candidates, but their ostensible independence allows them access to the unlimited donations. That has led to eye-popping contributions by billionaires such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, a Gingrich backer, and mutual fund investor Foster Friess, who supports Santorum. Romney's super PAC has been fueled in part by former colleagues from Bain Capital.

In South Carolina, super PACs have dropped $6.9 million on TV ads scheduled to run through Saturday's primary, compared with $5.4 million spent on television by the candidates, according to a campaign source familiar with the buys.

"We have never seen anything like this in terms of the amount of money being raised and spent," Potter said. "The scale of it is the surprise. They are spending more than the candidates are."

Critics view the groups as essentially an end-run around campaign contribution limits. Colbert — Potter's frequent host — highlighted the loopholes in the system last week when he declared his candidacy for "president of the United States of South Carolina." With a figurative wink, he handed off control of his super PAC to fellow
Comedy Central host Jon Stewart, renaming it the Definitely Not Coordinating With Stephen Colbert Super PAC.
In fact, as Politico notes, Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart are ensuring that the issue -- which had flown largely under the radar in the past year -- is now dealt with seriously.
The arcana of campaign finance regulation — the dark science of politics — has entered the popular bloodstream, thanks largely to the on-going shtick of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart and some genuine insiders like Buddy Roemer and Trevor Potter who have become part of their supporting cast.

And for campaign finance wonks — especially the ones who for years have decried the impact of too much money on politics, to little effect — it’s been a sea change.
“In 2010, we were trying to get a lot of media and opinion leaders interested in the idea of, hey, you were looking to see what was going to happen as a result of Citizens United and the other court rulings, you should take a look at super PACs, and there was some interest,” said Gabriela Schneider, communications director of the Sunlight Foundation, which advocates for more transparency in government. “But after the election in 2010, almost nothing – until Stephen Colbert.”
This week, Pew Research Center found that 54 percent of registered voters had heard of Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on political ads as long as they didn’t coordinate with campaigns. And a solidly bipartisan 65 percent believe the new rules on independent expenditures were having a negative effect on the 2012 campaign.
Some Super-PACs have raised considerable sums of money for various candidates.

Yes, I'm not in favor of Super-PACs, and yes I think the Supreme Court decision was a mistake. You are encouraged to agree or disagree with me.

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