Buried in the fine print of the Disclose Act are provisions that impede advocacy groups challenging incumbent politicians or working to influence legislation.
Cato Daily Podcast
Republican super PACs are routinely raising or spending more money than the presidential candidates they are supporting, new filings show — a situation that just four years ago would have been equally bizarre and improbable.
The emergence of super-PACs shows once again that campaign finance reform has failed abysmally. After nearly four decades, it has achieved none of its goals.
Restore Our Future, the super PAC supporting Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy, raised $7 million in January, topping off its deep reservoir of funds and allowing the group to flood media markets from Sioux City to Sarasota with some $14 million in advertising. Its FEC disclosure on Monday revealed that its extensive effort to elevate Romney and bury the competition relied on a set of donors that runs the gamut from famous heirs and CEOs to the most opaque and controversial kind of corporate interests.
Former Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) was on last night’s Daily Show to discuss his new book, While America Sleeps. Conversation quickly turned to money in politics – Feingold was co-author of the landmark campaign finance law eviscerated by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which led to the rise of super PACs. “Now we have corporations and unions able to use their treasuries directly to do the stuff they’ve never been able to do,” Feingold said. “We have perhaps the worst corruption in 100 years.” Watch the clip below.
“When other people cover the super-PAC story that offends me, because I have owned this story since last June when I formed Colbert super-PAC with one simple yet noble goal — to raise massive amounts of money, and I did it,” Colbert said Tuesday.
Last June, Harold C. Simmons, a wealthy Texas businessman, sent a $100,000 check to Americans for Rick Perry, a “super PAC” preparing for Mr. Perry’s entry into the presidential race. A few months later, he donated $1 million to a different pro-Perry group through his company. In December, as Mr. Perry’s fortunes waned, Mr. Simmons wrote another check, this one for $500,000, to Winning Our Future, a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich.
One of my favorite facts about campaign finance, which illustrates both the fecklessness of the Federal Election Commission and the free-for-all of the current terrain, is that the FEC has not issued one single rule on Super PACs. Ever. Spending by outside groups has quadrupled since the 2006 election, and Super PACs are leading the way in a post-–Citizens United world of unrestrained corporate donations—and yet the government body charged with electoral fairness hasn’t had a thing to say about it. (You might actually call this one of my least favorite facts about campaign finance).
On Thursday, the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission will consider a staff recommendation to more than double the amounts that donors can give to candidates for city office, raising the limit in City Council races from $500 to $1,100 and in citywide campaigns from $1,000 to $2,100. The proposal makes some sense — contribution limits should be adjusted periodically to reflect inflation — but it is poorly timed and excessively large. The commission should reject it or, barring that, amend it to correct its defects.
Good-government groups are worrying the State Board of Elections isn’t doing enough to force their backers from the cover of darkness.