SuperPACs are the Problem…or the Solution…or Something…

In the continuing saga of Presidential Election 2012, the media and voters — and apparently candidates — are all still trying to get a handle on the role of SuperPACs and their influence in this new, exciting, and uncharted world of politics post Citizens United. While much has been written on the subject, things still seem murky. Especially for some of those writing about it. Unfortunately for the general public, the press is passing their confusion on to the voters.

Take, for example, two pieces from the same publication that came to my email inbox today — the first in the morning blast, the second by a friend this afternoon. Both were published in The Huffington Post but with a confusing lack of consistency on just what the influence of SuperPAC means to the Presidential election. Despite the difference, however, one thing remains clear: The Huffington Post thinks SuperPACs are dangerous. They’re just not quite sure why.

From this morning’s piece:

Don’t get me wrong. I realize kids need to be taught the value of good sportsmanship. Frankly, that’s a lesson we could all use. But another lesson we can use? Learning to play fair. You can say a lot of things about Newt Gingrich (for instance my 90 year-old grandmother who can’t always remember his name calls him the one with “all the wives”) but one thing you can’t say about him is that he lost in Iowa fair and square. The loss may have been legal thanks to Citizens United, but I wouldn’t call it fair. He — and most of the other candidates — ultimately lost to Mitt Romney because Romney, and those supporting him, massively out spent the others.

Whether or not the ads unleashed by the Romney campaign, and the super PACs supporting him, were inaccurate (a longstanding Gingrich complaint) is really secondary. If someone is flooding the airways with one message, and that message is drowning out all others, that message will get mistaken for fact — regardless of whether it is or not.

And then this afternoon’s:

Santorum’s Kentucky Derby-like surge from the back of the pack was largely the handiwork of two political action committees (Super PACs) that donated a lot of money in a hurry to Santorum’s campaign in Iowa: The Leaders for Families Super PAC, Inc., and the Red, White and Blue Fund.

According to Roll Call, “Leaders for Families Super PAC Inc., spent just under $107,000 on TV and radio ads and robocalls, public records show.”

According to Irregular Times, “The organization didn’t even exist before just 10 days ago. Just one day after it was created, the Super PAC had loads of money, from an unknown source, and was spending that money to create and place commercials on the radio for Rick Santorum.”

So, let me get this straight…SuperPACs are really, really detrimental because they allow one candidate to outspend another, create negative ads that are taken as truth, and ultimately make the playing field “unfair.” While at the same time, they allow candidates who would very clearly not be able to compete against these same wealthy candidates the ability to quickly raise money so they can stay in the race. Isn’t that the definition of leveling the playing field?

In any event, The New York Times also points out that at the same time Gingrich is reeling from Romney’s wealthy SuperPACS, he is also rallying thanks to supporters of his who’ve formed a SuperPAC to run ads against Romney. It’s starting to seem like every candidate’s supporters have free reign to raise money and speak. Oh the horror. Please read that as sarcasm. Much the same way you should read this as sarcasm. These SuperPACs are nothing but trouble.


The Center for Competitive Politics is now the Institute for Free Speech.