Look no further than the Utah Republican Party convention over the weekend. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) took a strong majority of the vote and nearly avoided having to go to a June primary with his opponent — a good showing considering the position Hatch was in last year — and he did it in large part by running against outsiders who had come to Utah to unseat him. By the end of the campaign, polling showed that 62 percent of convention delegates had an unfavorable opinion of FreedomWorks, the main conservative group seeking to unseat Hatch, and 39 percent said their feelings were “very unfavorable” toward the group. The group, which played a major role in unseating Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) at the 2010 convention, had become a pariah and, undoubtedly, something of a boon to Hatch. One local columnist even suggested the group’s name was a “dirty word” in the Beehive State.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Paul Rolly wrote that “when the name FreedomWorks was brought up in recent weeks during focus groups consisting of GOP delegates, the response was chilling. One focus group leader said it was like someone had just spouted a vile obscenity.” A new poll from the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law shows how that kind of backlash can germinate. In the poll, conducted by Opinion Research, 69 percent of respondents said new rules allowing donors to give unlimited amounts of money to super PACs will result in corruption, and 77 percent said members of Congress will be more likely to act in the interest of a group that spent millions trying to elect them rather than act in the public interest.
In other words: Americans hate super PACs. Or, at the least, they are exceedingly suspicious of them. But the data reinforce something that has characterized the American electorate for centuries: a healthy skepticism of the powerful. It just so happens that when groups can flood even more money into campaigns, they become even more powerful. And the poll suggests people are adjusting their skepticism accordingly.