Category Archives: Super PAC

PACs, Super PACs, and 501(c)4s

A group of people, such as a business, labor union, or ideological group, may create a PAC to raise and disburse voluntary donations directly to a political party or a political candidate’ s campaign. For example, PACs have been created by many corporations, unions, and special interest groups, such as the National Association of Realtors, AT&T, ExxonMobil, Sierra Club, Transport Workers Union, National Rifle Association, and Washington Women for Choice.

In 1944, the Congress of Industrial Organizations established the first PAC in response to the Smith-Connally Act of 1943 which disallowed contributions to federal political campaigns from union treasuries. The Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments (1974) set limits on donations to federal PACs, as well as spending limits which were later repealed (Buckley v. Valeo, 1976). Since the 1970s, campaign finance law has continued to evolve.

PACs are one of four sources of funds for candidates seeking federal office (the other three sources are individual donors,  political parties, and the candidate’s own money).   Continue reading

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FCC’s New Rule on Tracking Political Ad Buys

Beginning August 2, 2012, about 200 TV station affiliates of NBC, ABC, CBS, and Fox in the nation’s top 50 TV markets were required by the FCC to start posting the records of political ad buys online for easier access.  Prior to this date, these records could still be obtained, but only by going directly to the TV station’s location and requesting them (this procedure is still in place for all other stations, including cable).  The ability to access this information more quickly and easily will allow for greater transparency in political elections.

Broadcasters had been fighting against this requirement for a number of years because they said it created “an onerous paperwork burden.”  They are now saying that the new rule would affect their bottom line by exposing their ad pricing to other customers and to their competitors.  After one year, the FCC will re-evaluate its decision based on the effect that it had on the 200 TV stations.

Unfortunately, there are still huge numbers of political ad buys that are not covered by the FCC ruling because they fall outside the nation’s top 50 TV markets.  According to the Sunlight Foundation, this includes more than half of the ads (tens of thousands) that have aired in 4 of the 9 presidential swing states.  None of the ad spending in Iowa has to be reported.  Only 30% of that in Wisconsin and  45% of that in Colorado have to be reported online. Continue reading

Citizens United on the Corporate Court

Jamie Raskin, a constitutional law professor, recently wrote a very interesting article on the Citizens United decision. The irony of the Citizens United case is that the plaintiffs only wanted a ruling stating that the electioneering provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform law didn’t apply to them. “But the conservatives sent the parties back to brief and argue the paradigm-shifting constitutional question they were so keen to decide. As dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens observed, the justices in the majority ‘changed the case to give themselves an opportunity to change the law.'”

Raskin states that the influx of money spent by super PACs and dark money 501(c)4 groups in the 2010 election changed the focus of that year’s election from the continuing effects of the subprime mortgage crisis, the BP oil spill, and the Massey Energy coal mine disaster to the urgent importance of deregulating corporations (and, of course, repealing Obamacare). He discusses how, after 200 years of precedent, the Supreme Court changed its views of corporations from an “artificial entity” and “mere creation of the law” to one of personhood.

image courtesy of reuters

Raskin describes how corporations are now actually more protected than individuals and small businesses. Defenders say that “corporations should be free to keep their political spending secret because they may face intimidation and even — God forbid — boycotts from consumers who dislike their politics.” Small businesses are at a disadvantage since they don’t have the kind of money to spend that large corporations do in order to have their voices heard.

In another ruling against democratic principles, the Supreme Court overturned a provision of Arizona’s law on public campaign financing, a law that was passed by referendum by its citizens.  “The Court ruled that privately financed candidates backed by wealthy interests not only have a right to spend to the heavens to win office but also a right, in states with public financing laws, to lock in their massive financial advantage over publicly financed candidates, whose campaign speech may not be even modestly amplified by public funding when they get outspent. The First Amendment becomes not the guardian of democratic discussion but the guarantee of unequal protection for well-born and wealth-backed politicians. Today corporations can saturate the airwaves and billionaires can spend to their hearts’ content, but government cannot create even a modest megaphone to help poorer candidates be heard.”

Here are excerpts from the article:

Continue reading

The True Identity Behind Super PACs

by Anita
Who are the top Super PAC donors? According to rootstrikers.org, there have been 26 donors (so far) who have given almost 50% of all Super PAC money.  Who knows how many are giving secretly to the 501(c)4  “social welfare organizations”?  Here is a link to a post on the Rootstrikers blog that shows the names and occupations of those 26 donors (be sure to click on the image in the blog post to enlarge it):
You may notice that the Koch brothers aren’t in this graphic.
According to Szelena Gray at Rootstrikers, the graphic deals with Presidential Super PACs, and the Koch brothers primarily donate to Congressional races.

Also, John Lesko writes in a comment: Continue reading

Meeting With Senator John Cornyn’s Staff Member

by Barb

Citizen’s Meeting at John Cornyn’s Dallas Office 8/15/12

1. Our Group’s Direct Request to our Senator through Collin McLochlin, deputy regional director.

Please support an amendment overturning the Citizens United ruling because Money in politics via campaign contributions through lobbyists and other groups is corroding our democracy. And, the Citizen’s United ruling exacerbates this corrosion by allowing unlimited indirect campaign contributions to super PACs and social welfare organizations. The public and shareholders will not know who is behind the ads and information because donors can be anonymous if donating through the social welfare organizations. But, the candidate who is being supported will know who dropped all the money to get them into office, sooner or later, as the corporations and super rich come knocking for the political return on their investment through that candidate.

2. Paraphrased answers from Collin McLochlin. Continue reading