published Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Corrupting super PACs

If it's not yet clear to all that the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010 opened the door for this country's megarich individuals and corporations to influence or control the election of our president, consider this: A select group of just over two dozen multimillionaires, billionaires and corporations have quickly become the biggest givers to the super PACs that are now funding most of the advertising for candidates in the Republican presidential primaries. The super PACs they support often outspend the official campaign organizations of the candidates they openly favor by a two-to-one to three-to-one margins.

Such electioneering funding by super PACs in behalf of specific candidates was allowed under the Citizens United ruling, so long as the PACs did not coordinate their campaigns with those of the candidates they favor. That's a technical distinction that in reality makes no difference at all. There's no question as to why the media campaigns of the super PACs are overwhelming the candidates' own campaigns. Rich donors may only give $2,500 legally per election cycle to a candidate's campaign. With no rules or limits for the super PACs' technically unofficial campaigns, they can use their fortunes freely to make the political playing field -- and ultimately the candidates' political agendas -- their own. Some of them are quite transparent about that: some oppose environmental regulations, others oppose higher tax rates on the rich.

Las Vegas casino czar Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Dr. Miriam Adelson, who wrote two $5 million checks in the South Carolina and Florida primaries for the Winning Our Future super PAC that favors Newt Gingrich, favor American patronage of Israel. Dr. Adelson's two daughters or their spouses kicked in another million to that super PAC.

Harold C. Simmons, a Texas billionaire, corporate raider and longtime political activist -- he helped fund the 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against the presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry -- has plowed $12 million into the American Crossroads super PAC headed by Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's longtime aide. His conservative agenda is pretty clear. He also put $1 million into the super PAC that favored Texas Gov. Rick Perry's brief fling in the current GOP presidential primary.

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel chipped in $2.5 million to the super PAC that favors Ron Paul, a fellow libertarian. Since President Obama finally allowed a former aide to open a super PAC that favors him, Hollywood's Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of Dreamworks, has put $2 million into Priorities USA Action. Another $1 million gift to that super PAC came from the Service Employees International Union, a listing this week by The New York Times of the top 25 individuals, corporate givers and unions showed.

Of more than two dozen donations of $1 million and above, the latter two were the only gifts to the super PAC that favors Obama, and the SEIU gift was the only one by a union. Although more gifts surely will flow into the super PAC that favors Obama as the presidential campaign tightens, all of the big gifts so far were in behalf of GOP aspirants by heavy-hitter Republicans and a handful of corporations.

So far, the super PACs that favor Mitt Romney are sitting on top of the cash pile. They have picked up more than a dozen gifts of at least $1 million from hedge fund managers Julian H. Robertson Jr., John Paulson and Paul Singer, other financial and business tycoons, and two of Romney's former campaign aides.

The Supreme Court justices can't help but see how their narrow 5-4 ruling in the Citizens United case, overturning a century of settled law against such unfettered campaign meddling by rich individuals and corporations, is making a mockery of the political landscape. The high court presently has an opportunity to revise the Citizens United ruling, and it should take it. The opportunity arises in the wake of a filing last week in which the court stayed a ruling of a Montana court that upheld the state's anti-corruption campaign law, which roughly parallels the federal campaign finance law that prevailed before the Supreme Court dumped it the Citizens United ruling.

Writing to support the stay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, "Montana's experience, and experience elsewhere since this court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission make it exceedingly difficult to maintain that independent expenditures by corporations 'do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.'" She was quoting Justices Anthony Kennedy's justification for allowing such expenditures, which he said might provide access to or influence over politicians, but would not corrupt them. If the court looks at the current gifts to super PACs by the ultra rich in favor of specific candidates, it can hardly profess with a straight face that the Citizens United ruling is not corrupting our political system faster than we can say million-dollar-gifts for special consideration.

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A discussion of corporate influence in politics should not omit the corporate media:

From 1791 to 1886 1st Amendment freedoms applied only to citizens.

From 1886 to 1973 citizens and media corporations enjoyed equal freedoms.

From 1974 to present only commercial media enjoy unrestricted freedoms. Following Watergate and reports of serious financial abuses in the 1972 Presidential campaign, Congress amended the FECA in 1974 to set limits on contributions by individuals, political parties and PACs.

However corporate media were exempted to protect their 1st Amendment rights. 2 USC 431 (9) (B) (i) The term "expenditure" does not include any news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, or other periodical publication, unless such facilities are owned or controlled by any political party, political committee, or candidate;

The corporate media were exempted despite the fact newspapers coordinated with Richard Nixon’s campaign and bribed him with in kind donations of favorable editorials; the very kind of corruption the Federal Campaign Act was supposed to protect the public from.

Prior to President Nixon’s second term, some of our nation’s largest newspapers found themselves in federal court losing antitrust suits which accused them of purchasing financially troubled regional newspapers and then pretending to compete with them while rigging prices.

The Newspaper Preservation Act was working its way through congress and was designed to grant antitrust relief to the affected newspapers. Richard Nixon and his, Attorney General, were on record as strongly opposed to the passage of the Newspaper Preservation Act.

A newspaper executive wrote a letter to President Nixon as his re-election approached. The letter reminded President Nixon that the nation’s largest Newspaper chains published in those states that had the largest number of electoral votes. The carefully worded letter reminded President Nixon that it could be difficult to be re-elected without their editorial support.

Nixon reversed his position and convinced Congress to pass the Newspaper Preservation Act.


It is normal for all large businesses to make serious efforts to influence the news, to avoid embarrassing publicity, and to maximize sympathetic public opinion and government policies. Now they own most of the news media that they wish to influence. - Excerpt from the Media Monopoly by Ben H. Bagdikian

There is little difference between slanted news stories, editorial opinions and political ads? The press exemption is a restriction on participation by 99.9999% of the population and grants .0001% of the population immunity from campaign laws. ? I challenge the broadcast talking heads and print journalists to explain why their audiences should not enjoy the same exemption?

February 25, 2012 at 4:37 p.m.

1907 Tillman Act The first federal law in this arena, passed in 1907, was also a ban on corporate contributions to campaigns. The law was dubbed the Tillman Act, after its sponsor, South Carolina senator "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman. Tillman wrote and said little of his motives for sponsoring the ban on corporate contributions, but he hated President ¬Theodore Roosevelt and appears to have wanted to embarrass the president (who had relied heavily on corporate funding in his 1904 election campaign). Tillman's racial politics also clearly contributed to his interest in controlling corporate spending: Many corporations opposed the racial segregation that was at the core of Tillman's political agenda. Corporations did not want to pay for two sets of rail cars, double up on restrooms and fountains, or build separate entrances for customers of different races. They also wanted to take advantage of inexpensive black labor, while Tillman sought to keep blacks out of the work force.

Corporations supported Republicans, and Tillman — a Democrat, like most post-war Southern whites — often bragged of his role in perpetrating voter fraud and intimidation in the presidential election of 1876 in order to overthrow South Carolina's Republican reconstruction government. It is clear, then, that Tillman was no "good government" reformer; and far from being born of lofty ideals, federal campaign-finance regulations were, from their inception, tied to questionable efforts to gain partisan advantage.

February 25, 2012 at 4:39 p.m.

Super PACs can be used by groups of everyday people to pool their money and make their voices heard.For a different view of Super PACs I recommend:

SuperPac Launches 250 Million Dollar Campaign to Defeat Barack Obama ABO 2012SuperPac announced the start of an unprecedented juggernaut to unseat President Obama. According to the website, "for the first time in America, thanks to the Citizens United decision (which allows unlimited individual and corporate campaign contributions), individuals and small and medium size businesses have the freedom to have their voices heard, and to have an impact on the presidential election."

The Credo super PAC will be different from other super PACs in key ways. Instead of relying on wealthy donors - such as Newt Gingrich's super-PAC patron Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate whose family has contributed $10 million in support of Gingrich - Credo's super PAC will focus on small donors. So far, the average contribution from its 20,000 donors has been $20, Bond said.

And most of the donations to comedian Stephen Colbert's Super PAC were under $250.

February 25, 2012 at 4:41 p.m.

Democrats have always been bought and paid for by unions. Though they make only a few large super pac donations, try adding all the donations together and you will see the true impact they have had in elections for years. That is the reason Obama declared only union workers can do the work on government contracts. He is bought & paid for by union officials.

February 26, 2012 at 4:11 p.m.

If it weren't for corrupt politicians, SuperPACs wouldn't exist.

February 27, 2012 at 12:14 p.m.
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