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Published on January 30th, 2012 | by Saira Khan
Image © [caption id="" align="alignleft" width="256" caption="MiteMakesRight ©"][/caption] Is the deciding factor in elections, not policy, not party, not character, ‘but a new political animal that is ugly, loud [and] anti-democratic’; the super PAC? Political Action Committees are private organisations aimed at increasing election chances for particular political candidates. Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, a PAC is constituted by receipt of contributions or spending in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Super PACs can receive unlimited funding from individuals and corporations and can essentially indulge in unlimited, undisclosed expenditure. Does this mean the US has only the best democracy that money can buy? Political Action Committees have spent in excess of $25 million this campaign season, $8.1 million from PAC ‘Restore Our Future’ alone. PACs are primarily responsible for negative advertising against rivals. Even late night comedy show host Stephen Colbert formed his own super PAC to attack Mitt Romney. These advertisements can be harsh and unsupported and can increase the costs of advertising for those candidates who have serious messages to offer. This financial dependence on private organisations is a distortion of the political process and a propaganda tool. Not only does this corrupt the election process, but the Presidential position, too. A candidate who knows a third party was responsible for securing his win is a dangerous predicament. There is an indirect debt that may need to be paid off when in office. However, PACs are legally forbidden to coordinate with candidates, supposedly reducing their influence in campaigns. Despite this, many PACs include former staffers of the candidates. This non-cooperation law can also be used to candidate’s advantage; they can deny involvement or even awareness of negative advertising against opponents even though this may be what they wanted; they can play innocent and avoid accountability whilst reaping the benefits of the slander. Are we criticising candidates for adhering to the non-cooperation laws? Not if they are, in fact, cooperating. There is also the issue of misinformation. A Romney-affiliated super PAC asserted that Gingrich was paid $30,000 an hour by Freddie Mac, co-sponsored China’s one-child policy, supported taxpayer funding of abortions and was the only Speaker of the House to be reprimanded. Some of these claims are examples of PAC hyperbole and are unsupported. PAC advertisements are not necessarily informative and not only mislead the population but turn them away from interest in the election in general. However, it can also be said that to argue these advertisements can be used as false propaganda to sway votes is to argue that the American people cannot discern what is right from what isn’t and make a rational decision; is to argue that they are sheep. But if it isn’t the case that votes are swayed, why would super PACs invest so much money in this? And, regardless, it does not make PAC actions right. There is, of course, the counter-argument that to limit this is to limit free speech. Telling people how they may spend their money is unconstitutional. But is it a limitation of free speech if we stop large corporations using money to coerce and control the public airway? In this case, is no regulation necessary for misinformation to be quelled, true views to be heard, and democracy to be achieved? Well, not if, as Seton Motley of Less Government puts it, ‘money is speech in this country’.

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The Best Democracy Money Can Buy

MiteMakesRight ©

Is the deciding factor in elections, not policy, not party, not character, ‘but a new political animal that is ugly, loud [and] anti-democratic’; the super PAC? Political Action Committees are private organisations aimed at increasing election chances for particular political candidates. Under the Federal Election Campaign Act, a PAC is constituted by receipt of contributions or spending in excess of $1,000 for the purpose of influencing a federal election. Super PACs can receive unlimited funding from individuals and corporations and can essentially indulge in unlimited, undisclosed expenditure. Does this mean the US has only the best democracy that money can buy?

Political Action Committees have spent in excess of $25 million this campaign season, $8.1 million from PAC ‘Restore Our Future’ alone. PACs are primarily responsible for negative advertising against rivals. Even late night comedy show host Stephen Colbert formed his own super PAC to attack Mitt Romney. These advertisements can be harsh and unsupported and can increase the costs of advertising for those candidates who have serious messages to offer. This financial dependence on private organisations is a distortion of the political process and a propaganda tool. Not only does this corrupt the election process, but the Presidential position, too. A candidate who knows a third party was responsible for securing his win is a dangerous predicament. There is an indirect debt that may need to be paid off when in office.

However, PACs are legally forbidden to coordinate with candidates, supposedly reducing their influence in campaigns. Despite this, many PACs include former staffers of the candidates. This non-cooperation law can also be used to candidate’s advantage; they can deny involvement or even awareness of negative advertising against opponents even though this may be what they wanted; they can play innocent and avoid accountability whilst reaping the benefits of the slander. Are we criticising candidates for adhering to the non-cooperation laws? Not if they are, in fact, cooperating.

There is also the issue of misinformation. A Romney-affiliated super PAC asserted that Gingrich was paid $30,000 an hour by Freddie Mac, co-sponsored China’s one-child policy, supported taxpayer funding of abortions and was the only Speaker of the House to be reprimanded. Some of these claims are examples of PAC hyperbole and are unsupported. PAC advertisements are not necessarily informative and not only mislead the population but turn them away from interest in the election in general. However, it can also be said that to argue these advertisements can be used as false propaganda to sway votes is to argue that the American people cannot discern what is right from what isn’t and make a rational decision; is to argue that they are sheep. But if it isn’t the case that votes are swayed, why would super PACs invest so much money in this? And, regardless, it does not make PAC actions right.

There is, of course, the counter-argument that to limit this is to limit free speech. Telling people how they may spend their money is unconstitutional. But is it a limitation of free speech if we stop large corporations using money to coerce and control the public airway? In this case, is no regulation necessary for misinformation to be quelled, true views to be heard, and democracy to be achieved? Well, not if, as Seton Motley of Less Government puts it, ‘money is speech in this country’.

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