Friday, February 10, 2012

The problem with Super PACs, and what to do about them

I don't think anyone knows what the full ramifications of the Citizens United decision will be on this year's Presidential election.

In the just over two years since the decision by the Supreme Court, we have not had a full election cycle to digest what would happen as a result of that decision. The 2010 federal election cycle was well underway, so while there were far more consequences for the general election, as opposed to the primaries.

But we are beginning to see what is happening and what may happen before the general election this November. Mitt Romney was the beneficiary of heavy Super PAC spending before the Florida primary, in his defeat of Newt Gingrich. The Koch Brothers and friends have indicated they will spend up to $100 million just to defeat Barack Obama in the fall, and his main opponent isn't even known yet! More recent, Obama himself has announced his support for his Super PAC allies to get to work.

There is no way that anyone who donates a significant amount of money is not going to be expecting something in return. Even though the candidates are not allowed to coordinate their efforts with the various Super PACs, anyone who believes that isn't happening, needs to pull their head out of the sand. Obama and Co. may be putting forward that their campaign is all about the small donors like you and I, but he is going to get far more money in support from the Super PACs.

Quid pro quo will obviously be in play for whoever wins in November. Most of it will come in the forms of favorable executive orders, or more discretely, favorable legislation that gets through Congress.

I don't think Super PACs will go away any time soon, at least until another Watergate happens (and trust me, it will happen at some point). So what to do about them until that point?

The only viable thing I see at this point is sunshine. Something needs to be done to force donors to be made public quickly. Announcements on various Super PAC's websites as soon as they receive money from whoever makes the donations. In advertising, large donors names need to be a prominent part of the advertisement. Any other ways to make donors public quick and very visible is good. It helps show who is trying to buy the election.

Getting rid of all of the money that flows into politics will probably never go away. But as I mentioned above, nothing of significant change will happen until some new Watergate happens. Watergate will happen someday, if it is not already happening now.

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