Attack of the Super PACs

Fund-raising machines symbolize freedom, but spread political poison

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Super PACs have become this year’s super-villains.

Thanks to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing them, “super” political action committees that are independent but support certain candidates can raise unlimited amounts of money – and individuals are allowed to give unlimited amounts to them.

Technically, the Super PACs aren’t allowed to coordinate their activities with the candidates they support. But it’s naive to think they would ignore a candidate’s wishes.

Indeed, comedian Stephen Colbert, in his mock presidential campaign, turned his Super PAC over to fellow comedian Jon Stewart – and it was promptly renamed the “Definitely Not Coordinating with Stephen Colbert SuperPAC.”

The public, though, is deadly serious about wanting Super PACs banned, by a margin of nearly 70 percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll – an astounding consensus crossing party lines.

There’s good reason for that: Political ads have long tended toward the negative, but with the influx of all that new money, Super PACs have become a main sewer pipeline, dumping political raw sewage all over the campaign. It has made the nation’s politics all the more toxic.

We do wonder how one goes about banning Super PACs under the First Amendment. While the current incarnation of PACs is obnoxious and unsettling, one of this nation’s most cherished liberties and greatest assets is the freedom to form associations – including those that promote political causes and candidates. How to rein in Super PACs without stepping on that vital freedom is a tricky task.

While we sort that out, however, there’s another election practice that is a ton more dangerous to the body politic: The profligate support of candidates by public-sector labor unions.

The Denver Post reports that a public-sector union network of contributors in that state “helped Colorado’s liberal super PACs spend nearly 150 times more money than their Republican counterparts in 2010.”

But the danger isn’t a partisan one; it’s a practical one. If public-sector unions – often using cash supplied by taxpayers, in the form of mandatory dues paid by workers – are successful in essentially hiring their own bosses, who are in turn beholden to them, the upward pressure on public spending only increases. This, at a time when most states are bowing under the weight of public-employee benefits and retirements.

Nor is this merely an academic discussion: The city of Stockton, Calif., is on the verge of bankruptcy. As one Stockton business owner noted on National Public Radio – hardly a conservative bastion – “When the real estate was booming and the money was coming in, naturally the politicians, being politicians, made everybody happy. (The) police department, fire department, all got handsome wages and retirement plans – same as city officials.”

How outrageous is it? Consider this, from Stockton City Manager Bob Deis, who said that in the 1990s, “City employees only had to work one month, and then they could retire, and the city would pick up their insurance for free for them and their spouse for the rest of their lives.”

“Now,” adds NPR, “the bill for those public employee benefits has come due.”

NPR calls it “An example to avoid.” Yet, you can be sure it’s being repeated wherever public-sector unions have seized control of the politicians. Wisconsin is just a high-profile example of the battle for the public purse that public-sector unions are waging – and in many cases winning.

We need not wonder what such a country looks like. It’s called Greece.

Super PACs are fun to hate. But the real action, the real potential for lasting harm, is elsewhere.

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faithson
5193
Points
faithson 03/18/12 - 10:55 pm
4
1
Pray tell why it is more

Pray tell why it is more important to get Union money OUT than Super PAC money, at least that is what seems to be said here. By the editorial boards own assertion, "freedom to form associations – including those that promote political causes and candidates." they have made the case for Union money in politics. Having your cake and eating it too is philosophically dishonest boys... but have at it if you must, only shows a complete lack of intelligent discussion from the board.

burninater
9627
Points
burninater 03/19/12 - 12:09 am
4
2
NPR calls it “An example to

NPR calls it “An example to avoid.” Yet, you can be sure it’s being repeated wherever public-sector unions have seized control of the politicians.
----------
Oh, you can be sure? "Wherever public-sector unions have SEIZED CONTROL," eh? So I'm sure you have more examples than the one case you cite, right? I mean, you are implying that there's a secret seizure of power by these nefarious working class folks more significant than the blatant private super-PAC dollars we're seeing all over the airways 24/7, right?

And exactly who is the Right that they are continually outraged about the possibility that America's working class majority might actually seize political power from a minority elite? And they have the gall to call union-supporters "elitists"? What a joke.

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 03/19/12 - 04:49 am
3
2
The problem with the unions

The problem with the unions is the government insures their pension funds will be there and bails out the companies where they are when they are in trouble due to excessive wages. The unions are also exempt from Obama care with their generous insurance plans. Is that flatout buying votes or what?

seenitB4
88177
Points
seenitB4 03/19/12 - 05:16 am
0
1
The unions have had some

The unions have had some problems BUT at 1 time we really needed them..........too bad some few spoiled it for many.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 03/19/12 - 05:38 am
2
1
"The problem with the unions

"The problem with the unions is the government insures their pension funds"??? Are you referring to The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation?

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 08:05 am
0
2
No Tech, Obviously he is

No Tech, Obviously he is referring to pensions guaranteed by tax payer dollars.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 03/19/12 - 08:17 am
2
0
Which are?

Which are?

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 08:20 am
2
3
Well, at least President

Well, at least President Obama said he would never use Super PACs. Oh wait, he did a little flip flop on that promise.

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 08:29 am
0
2
Tons, NYC for one. "The

Tons, NYC for one. "The pensions are guaranteed by the New York State Constitution, and the senior citizens in the New York State Legislature and Congress will make sure today's senior citizens make absolutely no sacrifices. Only the serfs and younger generations will lose, as public services and benefits face an institutional collapse." NY Post

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 08:38 am
0
2
Also, while researching, this

Also, while researching, this little tidbit:
"Taxpayers' share of city pension costs has skyrocketed more than 900 percent in the last decade -- from $703.1 million in 2000 to $6.5 billion in 2009, according to the city comptroller's annual reports."
Got to love unions!!

scott-hudson
10
Points
scott-hudson 03/19/12 - 08:46 am
0
0
Get rid of the 17th Amendment

Get rid of the 17th Amendment and you fix a lot of problems.

dichotomy
33545
Points
dichotomy 03/19/12 - 10:35 am
0
2
Super PACs have been found to

Super PACs have been found to be legal by SCOTUS based on 1st Amendment rights. I doubt that congress could make a law against them that would not be struck down by the courts.

Abortion, birth control, and now Super PACs have been decided. Quit spinning your wheels and concentrate on issues that can be fixed. $16,000,000,000,000 and our current rate of spending combined with the already doubled projected cost of Obamacare will carry us closer to $25,000,000,000,000 if Obama gets another 4 years.

If you are truly worried about "unlimited amounts of money" then you should take a look at the deficit and quit worrying Super PACs. Super PACs are about the only way a candidate can compete with bought and paid for (with taxpayer money) union influence in our elections.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 03/19/12 - 12:04 pm
3
0
Where the heck are you

Where the heck are you pulling these random quotes from? NY? Firefighter, cop, etc. pensions are part of their salary/benefits. Of course their payed for by the taxpayers. Don't just bash unions. What about military pensions? Heck, we could save a ton zapping them and their medical benefits. It's not the right thing to do, but if you're gonna gripe about one, gripe about all.

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 03/19/12 - 12:07 pm
3
0
NY Post, isn't that Murdoch?

NY Post, isn't that Murdoch?

Techfan
6461
Points
Techfan 03/19/12 - 12:10 pm
3
0
Without Super Pac's you'll

Without Super Pac's you'll get killed in an election. You see, the right wing Supreme Court has declared that money is speech. You also can donate anonomously, so people can't tell who's buying the elections (Karl Rove).

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 01:10 pm
0
1
Techfan, I merely answered

Techfan, I merely answered your question. I didn't bash anyone. You asked what gov't pensions were guaranteed by taxpayers. If you don't like my reference material, fine. Provide some proof that there are no pensions guaranteed by taxpayers.

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 01:11 pm
1
2
I think it's funny when

I think it's funny when people "thumb up" their own posts.

Retired Army
17512
Points
Retired Army 03/19/12 - 01:41 pm
2
0
Justthefacts. How did you

Justthefacts. How did you find that out? Did you laugh when you did yours?

justthefacts
22198
Points
justthefacts 03/19/12 - 01:59 pm
1
0
Yes.

Yes.

Little Lamb
46405
Points
Little Lamb 03/19/12 - 02:10 pm
0
0
The front page Associated

The front page Associated Press story on today's Chronicle front page is really bizzare. It is all about how Santorum and Gingrich are sore about Super PAC advertisements attacking them. Here's a sample from the story:

Romney ads anger rivals

By Charles Babington

Associated Press

Republican insiders say Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich are fuming over the hard-hitting 30-second spots that sent them tumbling after they gained early leads in Iowa, Florida, Michigan and other states.

- - - - - - - - - - -

I remember in the days leading up to the S.C. primary and then the Super Tuesday primary that there were relentless radio and TV ads here in the CSRA tearing Romney to shreds. You don't see Romney whining and crying. He's just out there telling people how bad Obama is.

Here is the link .

twolane
191
Points
twolane 03/19/12 - 02:48 pm
0
0
i highly doubt the american
Unpublished

i highly doubt the american people have elected a president in decades..its not who casts the votes its who counts them

Riverman1
84926
Points
Riverman1 03/19/12 - 05:03 pm
0
1
TechFan, I'm referring to

TechFan, I'm referring to this bailout of union employee pension funds, but not salaried employees.

"June 23, 2011|By Andrew Seidman, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Washington — House Republicans lashed out at what they called preferential treatment the Obama administration gave to certain union pensions in the bailout of General Motors Corp. during the 2008 financial crisis."

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/23/business/la-fi-gm-bailout-review...

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