Campaigns/Elections

Reason.tv Replay: 3 Reasons Not to Get Worked Up Over Super PACS

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Original Release Date: January 26, 2012:

Everybody and their brother – even Stephen Colbert—is freaking out about "super PACs," which are an outgrowth of the Citzens United decision in 2010.

Traditional political action committees (PACs) are subject to federal limits on how much money donors can give in specific election cycles. Super PACS allow groups such as nonprofit corporations and unions to spend unlimited money on political speech as long as they don't coordinate their activity with the official campaign of a given candidate.

But for all the bellyaching, here are three good reasons not to get worked up over super PACS.

1. Billionaires don't need them to influence elections.

In the wake of an anti-Mitt Romney documentary from Winning Our Future, a group tied to billionaire Sheldon Adelstein, The New York Times fretted that the film – which has had little or no effect on Romney's candidacay – "underscores how [Citizens United] has made it possible for a wealthy individual to influence an election."

Actually, it's always been legal for rich people to spend what they want as long as they make "independent expenditures" that aren't coordinated with official campaigns. Billionares don't need super Pacs to get their message out. But super PACS may just let the rest of us have our say.

2. Super PACS Go Negative – and That's a Good Thing!

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), whose campaign finance legislation was rendered moot by Citizens Unitedcomplains that super Pacs not only flood elections with money but flood it with negative messages. McCain, who lost a run for presidency, admits that negative campaigning works, but doesn't like the tone.

Yet study after study shows not only that negative advertising works with voters, but that negative ads actually contain more information than gauzy paeans to American and the virtues of the candidates who pay for such spots.

3. Super PACS Take Power Away From the Parties.

There's no question that super PACs seek to benefit some candidates by taking aim at others. Adelstein, the moneybags behind the anti-Romney documentary, is known to be a Newt Gingrich fan.

But as long as super PACs don't coordinate with candidates or official party apparatchiks, they take messaging out of the hands of party leaders and spread it around elsewhere in a way that has got to be more representative of more views of more voters.

Super PACs are the latest casus belli in the push for controlling specifically political speech in the name of making elections fairer. There's no doubt that they are a loophole arising from the last round of campaign finance reform and the attempt to limit the amount of money politicians would have to raise to get their message out.

It's time to recognize that the only way to stop creating new loopholes is by ending the always ineffective laws designed to lower the cost office-seekers need to spend to buy our votes.

About 3 minutes long. Written and narrated by Nick Gillespie. Produced by Meredith Bragg.

Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of our videos.

Reason on campaign finance.

For more 3 Reasons videos, go here.

NEXT: Newt and Romney Turn the American Dream Into the Spartan Nightmare

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16 responses to “Reason.tv Replay: 3 Reasons Not to Get Worked Up Over Super PACS

  1. So, people in power due to the party structure of control are against something that takes that power away from them?

    I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around this.

    1. except the insiders are running the superpacs

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  2. Romney’s candidacay

    Really, Nick?

  3. Podium!

  4. Sheldon Adelson. Not Adelstein.

  5. Way to go, Nick! It’s not good enough for you to get shipped to Cuba for being a regular “extremist,” courtesy of the NDAA, so now you’re trying to get the entire Reason site shut down ala SOPA/PIPA! What’s next?

  6. I can’t believe the Republicans are going to nominate some asshole that is going to make McCain look good by comparison.

  7. The only thing sillier than “Super Pacs operate separate from campaigns” is the idea of turning finance over to gevernment itself (public financing). But perhaps a comprehensive plan to clean up our elections by making them financed by individuals only would make sense. Because any plan infringes on free speech in some way, an amendment is required for it to be sustainable. Here’s mine:
    TOM BEEBE’S AMENDMENT

    (Commentary in {..}, not part of proposed Amendment}

    No candidate for the Presidency or either house of Congress shall accept contributions in cash or in kind from any organization or group of persons for expenses incurred in a campaign for that office. All such contributions shall be made only by individual citizens who shall attest that the funds or other items of value are from their own resources and that they have not received, nor have they been promised, offsetting items of value from any other party in exchange for their contribution. The identity and extent of contributors to such campaigns shall be made public for a period of thirty days from receipt before being employed or used as collateral for a loan by such campaigns. Organizations of any type, {i.e. corporations, unions, gun rights advocates, environmental protection groups, even “Susie’s Flower Shop”, a theoretical small business cited in the Citizen’s United Case,} may, without restriction, expend money to advocate a position on any issue before or likely to come before the electorate insofar as no candidate’s name or description is included in their expressions of advocacy.

    {The intent of the above is to bring “transparency” to campaign financing by removing any group from the process whereby that group may conceal the identity of an individual contributor as well as limiting the influence of such groups or “special interests”. It further prevents an organization from making such contributions when an individual within that organization, such as a union member or corporation stockholder, may oppose the candidate. Considering the large equity position in certain corporations that the federal government has recently taken in response to the economic crises, this is particularly important in excluding such influence. The money from “special interest” groups will then go to promote that for which they exist, their “special interest”. The media will be directed to expositions on the issues facing the electorate, thus enhancing discussion and hopefully understanding of issues, bereft of personalities.}
    What do YOU think?

    1. “Because any plan infringes on free speech in some way, an amendment is required for it to be sustainable.”

      Thanks. I prefer the 1st Amendment.

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