Monday, August 22, 2011

Super PAC-alistic

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has really stepped up the effort in its political coverage. Of course, having two local people running for the GOP presidential nomination has a lot to do with that, but even with Tim Pawlenty now out of the race, the paper continues to do a fine job in covering the issues and the candidates.

What is especially helpful is the coverage of some of the more complicated factors in campaigns, especially after the Citizens United decision. This morning, for example, there was a helpful article explaining some of the ins and outs of Super PACs and the role they are playing in campaigns. Naturally, Michele Bachmann's campaign is used as an example:

Michele Bachmann's powerful fundraising force has gained some superpower.

The Minnesota congresswoman has two new so-called Super PACs on her side that can raise unlimited cash from donors, corporations and anyone else who wants to see a President Bachmann in 2012.

Pro-Bachmann conservative activists Ken Blackwell, Ed Brookover and Bob Harris are among political activists taking advantage of the new political finance rules, created in the wake of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision, that allow the formation of new groups with few limits on their fundraising. ...

...Super PACs have become the new powerful vehicle for high-dollar donors to influence elections, while decreasing the role that political parties play. As long as Super PACs and their nonprofit cousins, known as 501(c)(4)s stay independent of a candidate's campaign, they can rake in as much as they want.

The independence part is the key to the usefulness of Super PACs. They cannot give any money to the candidate or campaign. They can, however, buy millions of dollars of advertising time touting the candidate as long as there's a disclaimer that the ad has been paid for by the Super PAC and not the candidate. All in all it's a sweet deal for the candidate.

And it's not just Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney who've got Super PACs. The Democrats have embraced the concept as well, even after decrying their use by Republicans. After all, it's not exactly prudent to show up at a gun fight with only a Swiss Army knife.

So with both sides lining up behind these vehicles for unlimited donations and uncontrolled spending, the real losers are the rest of us who will face endless hours of campaign commercials on our televisions and radios and who will have to wade through that muck to try to come to a rational decision for our vote.

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