The only good news concerning the super-PACs flooding the 2012 Presidential race with negative ads funded by huge contributions from the super rich is that these “vehicles for corruption” can be eliminated. So far most of the attention directed toward stopping the super-PACs has involved passage of a constitutional amendment that, if passed by Congress and approved by the voters, would solve the problem. But there is another way to derail the Super-PACs. Congress can also pass a law to end these candidate-specific super-PACs. That’s something well within the bounds of the Citizens United decision.
Citizens United is doing great damage to our nation’s well-being. The Supreme Court’s decision paved the way for the creation of super-PACs – federally registered political action committees that raise unlimited contributions and use these funds to make expenditures in federal elections. To legally spend these funds, the High Court said that outside groups must operate “independently” of the candidates they are supporting. If anybody believes the Super-PACs are truly independent, they would be good candidates for the sale of ocean-front lots in a desert.
The 2012 Presidential campaign has brought us a virulent species of these groups in the form of the candidate-specific super-PAC. It’s very clear that the super-PACs are far from being independent. They function as nothing more than extensions of the Presidential candidates’ campaigns. Take a look at the people running the super-PACs and you will find former close political associates of the candidates. They raise and spend unlimited contributions to support only that candidate. It’s been reported that campaign aides, political associates and sometimes the candidate himself appear at events held to raise contributions for the super-PAC. It’s obvious to those giving huge sums to a super-PAC that supports a Presidential candidate, that the contributions directly benefit that candidate just as if the contributions were being given directly to the candidate. I don’t see how anybody can deny that. As you may know, a contribution to a candidate is limited to $2,500 per election.
The Presidential candidate-specific super-PACs are vehicles for avoiding the limits on contributions to federal candidates – limits that are supposed to prevent government corruption. In a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case (Buckley v. Valeo) that upheld the constitutionality of limits on contributions to candidates, the Court said limits were necessary to deal with the “reality or appearance of corruption inherent in a system permitting unlimited financial contributions.” That certainly made sense, was a good thing then, and it hits the nail squarely on the head at present.
The inherently corrupt system envisioned by the Court in 1976 is precisely what our country faces with the advent of candidate-specific super-PACs. The key to saving the day for the American people is to make the super-PACs illegal. Even without a constitutional amendment, the type of candidate-specific super-PACs currently being used in the Presidential campaign can be eliminated. Democracy 21, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicating to making democracy work in the U.S., has drafted legislation that would accomplish this goal.
The linchpin of the Citizen United decision is the requirement that expenditures by an outside group, such as a super-PAC, must be made independently from the candidate the group supports. The Court left it to Congress to define what constitutes illegal “coordination.” The candidate-specific super-PACs in this year’s Presidential contest have common characteristics that closely tie them to the candidates they support, and include the following:
• They are informally, if not formally, established, suggested, encouraged or signed off on by the Presidential candidate or his agents.
• They are created or run by former close political associates of the candidate and spend their money to support that candidate.
• They share fundraising lists and/or fundraisers in soliciting unlimited contributions from donors.
• The candidates or their agents appear at or otherwise participate in their fundraising and other events.
• They discuss campaign strategy, plans, needs, activities or expenditures with the candidate or his agents.
These indications of coordination can and should be incorporated into a new statutory definition of coordination that denotes the presence of any such behavior that establishes illegal coordination between the super-PAC and the candidate. It’s been said that candidate-specific super-PACs are returning this nation to the system of “legalized bribery” of federal officeholders that existed before the Watergate scandals. Congress can keep this from happening, but its members must have the will to do the job.
Nobody can deny that these third-party attack groups – funded by anonymous billionaires and powerful corporations, and led by the likes of Karl Rove and the Koch brothers – have become the dominant force in American politics. Corporations are now considered “people,” a concept which is impossible to comprehend, and that has changed the political landscape in this country. Grassroots progressive voices are being drowned out by the super-PACs with their hundreds of millions of dollars available to be spent for the candidates they support.
Hopefully, the American people will realize what is happening – wake up – and get actively involved to put things right. The place to start is in the general election process and that includes supporting candidates who agree Citizens United was bad for America. A record turnout at the polls this fall would offset the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the super-PACs. The American people have too much at stake not to respond in a manner that will level the playing field in our Nation’s Capitol.
Source: Mobile Press Register
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