published Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Super-PACs' firepower

The rise of super-PACs has been chartered well enough through coverage of the Republican primaries that by now Americans surely know these advertising behemoths have become the pivotal political playground of largely anonymous wealthy tycoons. Thanks to the 2010 U.S Supreme Court's 5-4 Citizens United ruling that unleashed unlimited political spending by rich individuals and corporations, just a handful of super-PAC donors -- or even just one -- can now tilt public opinion in a presidential race.

That became clear last week when it was discovered that Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of the brokerage firm Ameritrade, was considering individually funding a $10 million super-PAC advertising campaign against President Barack Obama. The malignant theme of the advertising barrage, as outlined by a proposed storyboard, was designed to make viewers believe that Obama was guided by the fiery, race-based invective of his former Chicago pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., one of whose speeches captured on tape was especially inflammatory.

The ad campaign would have portrayed Obama as a mesmerized disciple of Wright, whose views ruefully influenced Obama's presidential agenda. Though that pernicious theme was well-debunked in the last presidential campaign, it possibly could have tilted a large enough margin in a tight race to alter the outcome of the vote.

Fortunately, when word of the plan spread to national media, Ricketts and his family's business interests and plans quickly came under scrutiny and pressure to drop the super-PAC campaign. Two days later, he pulled the plug.

Problem is, negative publicity about the sponsors of such dirty tactics -- if their identity is known -- is likely to be far less effective as a monitor of the political market place when the presidential campaign shifts into high gear in coming months. By then, a media expose may just get lost in the avalanche of super-PAC advertising.

The scope of such advertising is likely to drown out debate on the scruples of its sponsors and sources. Less than a dozen super-PACs -- which are free to operate without so long as their advertising is not technically coordinated with candidates' campaigns -- are publicly participating in national or state campaigns. But more than 500 have registered with the Federal Election Commission. When they begin unleashing their pocketbook power this summer, voters will be inundated. And the consultants who conjure up and run their campaigns are likely to be as unknown to the public as their funding donors.

The campaign that billionaire Ricketts considered funding, for example, was created Fred Davis, a veteran Republican advertising strategist who had previously helped Utah's Jon Huntsman Jr.'s presidential bid campaign. The Our Destiny super-PAC he heads was originally funded by the Huntsman family, but, like other super-PACs, it doesn't have answer to candidates and their campaigns.

That operational freedom makes super-PACs as nimble as they are now ubiquitous. The Restore Our Future super-PAC, for example, has practically taken over advertising for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. Run by two former Romney campaign workers, it's poured $44.5 million into pro-Romney advertising so far. Other super-PACs, and their directors and donors, have different agendas.

Americans don't know yet what slanted or false super-PAC campaigns advertising to expect, but the signs so far are dismal. Until the Supreme Court reverses course, wealthy donors seem destined to control the course of our politics.

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Don't worry, money is speech, and corporations are people like you and me!

May 22, 2012 at 12:31 a.m.
una61 said...

Austin, don't forget to include your socialist billionaire, George Soros.

May 22, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

Like both sides don't have super-pacs with billionaires supporting them. Didn't George Soros start a super-pac for white-black Obama consisting solely of billionaires? Seems like the richest of the rich to me. The top of the 1% support Obama. What does that tell you?

May 22, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.

You're welcome to join in the effort to repudiate Citizens United, you don't need to fret over who does what, the rest of us agree to end it all.

But really, you're way too worried over George Soros. Can't you at least add some other names to rant about?

May 22, 2012 at 12:56 p.m.

Oh, you mean the George Soros behind media matters? The one behind the company SCYTL which will count the votes for 26 states? He's just a harmless old man. Who's worried?

May 22, 2012 at 5:17 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

We don't need superpacs when Senator Corker was paid $61,000 by J.P. Morgan during his campaign. Today, he sat on a committee "regulating" them.

"Not regulating them" might be a better way of describing it.

Senator Corker apparently spent all $61,000 of their money on remembering why he should not protect the financial health of this country. Instead, he sided with the corrupt bankers who paid him off.

Instead of saying that J.P. Morgan was irresponsible in its dealings that lost $3 Billion, he blamed the CFTC. Republicans had defenestrated that agency back in the 1990s.

Their subsequent illegally weak insurance deals cost us dearly as Baby Boomers retired with the close of the Bush Administration: the house of cards built to pump up paper trade profits with an extra-thick layer of insurance fraud crashed. Today, Senator Bob Corker covered those Big Bank CEOs instead of holding them to account.

When Senator Corker accepts $61,000 in open campaign contributions, and then sides with corrupt banks: the superpacs are not our only worries. Outright corruption is the result of poor character and poorer choices on the part of our elected officials.

Bill Senator Corker for all $61,000 in corrupt campaign contributions he received from J.P. Morgan. Insist that he regulate those disgustingly greedy bankers who damaged our economy.

Senator Bob Corker: bought off with $61,000 from J.P. Morgan.



May 23, 2012 at 9:28 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...


Senator Corker is listed as receiving $59,750 from JPMorgan Chase from 2011 to 2012. They spent more on him than they did on Sentoar Mitch McConnell.

May 23, 2012 at 9:58 p.m.
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