Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton are asking donors to write the checks to get their campaigns started. Yet these “new” candidates have been fueling their presidential ambitions for months — years, in Clinton’s case — thanks to outside groups that will continue serving as big-money bank accounts throughout the race. In the 2016 presidential field, creative financing abounds. While donors can give a maximum $2,700 apiece per election to their favorite candidatdte’s campaign, the presidential contenders offer generous supporters plenty of other options. Outside groups that can accept checks of unlimited size include personalized super PACs that, while barred from directly coordinating with candidates, are often filled with their trusted friends. There are also “dark money” nonprofit policy groups that keep contributors’ names secret.
This weekend in Miami Jeb Bush will huddle with a group of his top donors at a brand new “nature-centric,” $700-a-night South Beach hotel, replete with four pools, a Tom Colicchio restaurant and an 11,000-plant “living green wall.” The point, though, isn’t tranquility and relaxation – it’s survival. For a time, it looked like Bush would steamroll the GOP field with a cash-flush juggernaut that might raise as much as $100 million in the first quarter, using a variety of super PACs to push the boundaries of campaign finance laws and dominate the field. But that was before New York hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer pledged more than $15 million to Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio gained the full-fleged support of Miami billionaire Norman Braman and became the front-runner to win casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s backing. Another rival, Scott Walker, recently became the favorite of billionaire David Koch, who seemed to tip his support for the Wisconsin governor at a fundraiser this week.
“I had a college degree, a decade of experience, and the only job I could get was making $8 an hour at the local convenience store in my neighborhood,” Maine state Rep. Diane Russell (D) said in January, recalling her unlikely path to public office. “I have no business being in politics. I was not groomed for this. But thanks to public financing, I have a voice. And thanks to public financing, a gal who takes cash for the convenience store for selling sandwiches can actually talk about the stories that she’s learned from behind the counter.” Russell was speaking at an event on the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling that set off an avalanche of money in politics. After her state’s “clean elections” system propelled Russell into office in 2008, she quickly became a force in Maine politics. Her progressive record of defending voting rights and workers, for example, led the Nation to recognize her as its “Most Valuable State Representative” in 2011.
Editorials: The Uniquely Awful Role of Sheldon Adelson in the Israeli Election | Gershom Gorenberg/American Prospect
As the contest for who will lead the nation takes shape, the classic right-wing charge of pervasive, hostile media bias was splashed in giant tabloid type across the front page of the daily Israel Hayom last Friday. The headline read: “Netanyahu: The Media is Campaigning to Bring the Left to Power.” The Friday edition of an Israeli paper is the equivalent of a thick Sunday edition in America; print newspapers are still very popular in Israel, and Israel Hayom is one of the two most popular papers. You might just sense a contradiction here: The most-read headline of the week in one of the country’s most influential news sources carried Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s accusation that the media is deliberately trying to take power from him and give it to the left. The irony certainly wasn’t intentional. The undeclared purpose of Israel Hayom is to promote Bibi Netanyahu. “Newspaper” in Hebrew is iton; Israel Hayom has gained the nickname Bibiton. A vast army of people wearing red overalls hand it out for free everyday, everywhere in Israel. For the newspaper’s owner, American casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, making money isn’t the goal.
National: Wealthy political donors seize on new latitude to give to unlimited candidates | The Washington Post
Andrew Sabin gave Republicans so much money in 2012 that he accidentally went over a limit on how much individuals could donate to federal candidates and party committees. So Sabin, who owns a New York-based precious-metals refining business, was delighted when the Supreme Court did away with the limit in April. Since then, he has been doling out contributions to congressional candidates across the country — in Colorado, Texas, Iowa and “even Alaska,” he said. Top Republicans have taken notice: Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott have paid him personal visits this year, he noted proudly. “You have to realize, when you start contributing to all these guys, they give you access to meet them and talk about your issues,” said Sabin, who has given away more than $177,000. “They know that I’m a big supporter.”
As Senator Mitch McConnell, an outspoken opponent of regulating campaign spending, has conceded, trying to put limits on political donations is not easy. In McConnell’s words, it’s “like putting a rock on Jell-O. It oozes out some other place.” But if it was difficult before the Supreme Court’s decision this week in McCutcheon v.FEC, it is likely to be impossible now. It was precisely to address the possibility that wealthy people might try to circumvent restrictions on political contributions that Congress not only limited how much money individuals can directly give to political candidates, but also capped the total amount they can donate to all candidates in any election cycle. The Court’s most recent decision, by invalidating all aggregate limits on donations, has vastly increased the amount of Jell-O that campaign finance laws now must contend with. And still more disturbingly, the decision’s rationale invites further challenges to Congressional limits on campaign spending. When this Court gets through, there may be no rock left at all—only Jell-O.
The Supreme Court argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission on aggregate limits on campaign donations was odd, to say the least. Justices who were inclined to uphold the limit seemed to agree that the limits on what an individual can give to all candidates and the national and state parties collectively is there to prevent a few billionaires from controlling elections. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for example, asked, “Is there any information on what percentage of all contributors are able to contribute over the aggregate?” Justice Elena Kagan later echoed this concern: “Now, having written a check for $3.5 million to a single party’s candidates, are you suggesting that that party and the members of that party are not going to owe me anything, that I won’t get any special treatment?” The solicitor general asserted the same: “Aggregate limits combat corruption both by blocking circumvention of individual contribution limits and, equally fundamentally, by serving as a bulwark against a campaign finance system dominated by massive individual contributions in which the dangers of quid pro quo corruption would be obvious and inherent and the corrosive appearance of corruption would be overwhelming.”
Editorials: Another Citizens United, but Worse, Goes to the Supreme Court | Jeffrey Toobin/ The New Yorker
Think the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United was bad? A worse one may be on the horizon. To recognize the problem, it’s necessary to review some of the Court’s gnarled history on the subject of campaign finance. In Citizens United, which was decided in 2010, the Court rejected any limits on what a person or corporation (or labor union) could spend on an independent effort to help a candidate win an election. Thus the rise of Super PACs; that’s why Sheldon Adelson could spend sixty million dollars to help Mitt Romney in 2012. But, though Citizens United deregulated independent expenditures on behalf of candidates, the case said nothing about direct contributions to the candidates themselves. That’s where the new case comes in. Current federal law allows individual donors to give up to two thousand six hundred dollars to any one candidate during a single election. In addition, they can give only an aggregate hundred and twenty-three thousand dollars to candidates, political action committees, and parties over a two-year period. Shaun McCutcheon, an Alabama Republican, wants to give more money to the candidates he supports, so he has sued to invalidate the rules limiting the over-all amounts he can give. (Indeed, the patriotically minded McCutcheon wanted to give “$1,776” to enough candidates to exceed the current limits on direct contributions.) The Supreme Court will hear his case in the fall, and he has a good chance of winning.
With less than 100 days to go in the presidential race, nine single-candidate “super” PACs — political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums on political expression – have spent $125 million advocating and advertising for their preferred candidate, a CBS News analysis of Federal Election Commission reports shows. Through the first half of 2012, the pro-Mitt Romney Restore Our Future, was the most active super PAC, raising $81 million and spending $60 million through June 30. Two-thirds of its spending, or $40 million, went to negative ads attacking Republican primary opponents Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Super PACs established for six also-ran Republicans — Gingrich, Santorum, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain — spent a combined $36 million dollars on advertising and advocacy during the primaries, which effectively ended when Santorum dropped out in April.
Editorials: Thanks, Citizens United, for This Campaign Finance Mess We're In | Adam Skaggs/The Atlantic
Before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee Tuesday, the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro became the latest to come out swinging against critics of Citizens United, testifying that the case is one of the most misunderstood high court decisions ever and claiming that “it doesn’t stand for half of what many people say it does.” Shapiro joins a chorus of Citizens United defenders, including First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams and his son Dan — the latter of whom has railed against what he calls the media’s “shameful, inexcusable distortion” of the case — as well as the New York Times Magazine‘s chief political correspondent, Matt Bai, who recently wrote that liberal criticism of the decision is “just plain wrong.” To be sure, it would be an oversimplification to suggest the decision is the only cause of our current Wild West campaign finance environment. But those criticizing the critics of Citizens United miss the forest for the trees. Their myopic focus on debunking overstatements about the case downplays the major roleCitizens United played in ushering in current conditions — and how it fits with the Roberts Court’s ongoing project to put our democracy up for auction. The defense of Citizens United rests on two primary claims about the case, one factual and one legal. Its defenders contend, first, that while Citizens United only concerned corporate election spending, the facts show that it is spending by individuals — not corporations — that counts this year. Next, they argue that, as a legal matter, individual spenders have been free to make unlimited political donations since long beforeCitizens United. They’re wrong on both counts.
National: Million-dollar donors account for nearly half of GOP super PAC fundraising | The Washington Post
If super PACs are indeed saving Mitt Romney early in the 2012 election (as we posited Tuesday morning), he’s got a lot of very wealthy people to thank for it. About four dozen donors and families have given at least $1 million to super PACs this election cycle, with three-quarters of them giving to the GOP. Combined, these four dozen donors have provided $130 million of the $308 million super PACs have raised this cycle (more than 40 percent) — a reflection of how much these outside groups are funded by extremely wealthy donors. And that goes double on the GOP side, where nearly half of the $228 million raised by super PACs has come from about three dozen million-dollar donors. Million-dollar donors have contributed $111 million out of $218 million raised by super PACs this election cycle, while million-dollar Democratic donors have contributed less than one-fourth, $19 million out of $80 million raised.
When the super PAC backing Mitt Romney, Restore Our Future, files its June donation report on Friday with the Federal Election Commission, it is expected to show a six-figure contribution from Wyoming businessman Foster Friess, his first to the group. But an unwelcome scrutiny came to Friess, Nevada billionaire Sheldon Adelson and some of the other wealthy donors to these super PACs, and some are planning for much of their future generosity to be behind a cloak of anonymity. Friess said he has decided his financial donations in the future will mostly be to groups that do not have to disclose their donors. He said he is planning on contributing to five or six so-called 501(c)(4) groups named after the section of the tax code they are organized under. These are nonprofit organizations that can advocate on behalf of social welfare causes or to further the community. He refused to discuss which groups, but did say one recipient could be an affiliate of American Crossroads, the group founded by Karl Rove.
Editorials: Campaign finance after Citizens United is worse than Watergate | Rick Hasen/Slate Magazine
How does the brave new world of campaign financing created by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision stack up against Watergate? The short answer is: Things are even worse now than they were then. The 1974 scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon was all about illegal money secretly flowing to politicians. That’s still a danger, but these days, the biggest weakness of our campaign finance system is not what’s illegal, but what’s legal. As Dan Eggen of theWashington Post put it, “there’s little need for furtive fundraising or secret handoffs of cash.” The rules increasing allow people and corporations with great wealth to skew public policy toward their interests—without risking a jail time, or a fine, or any penalty at all. It’s an influence free-for-all. The Washington Post reminds us what the country faced in the time of Watergate: “Money ran wild in American politics. One man, W. Clement Stone, gave more than $2 million to President Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign. The Watergate break-in was financed with secret campaign contributions. Fat cats plunked down cash for ambassadorships, and corporations for special treatment.” Fred Wertheimer, who has been pushing for campaign finance reform for decades, recounts that the corruption of old got results: “The dairy industry gave $2 million to the Nixon campaign and soon got the increase in dairy price supports they were seeking. Nixon overrode his Agriculture Department’s objection to put these supports in place.”
Voting Blogs: What Matt Bai’s Missing in His Analysis of Whether Citizens United is Responsible for the Big Money Explosion | Election Law Blog
The other day I linked to Matt Bai’s iece upcoming in Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, “How Much HasCitizens United Changed the Political Game. The article discusses (though inexplicably does not link to) my recent Slate article, “The Numbers Don’t Lie.” I promised a response to the article (I gave Matt an extensive interview in his writing of the piece), and here it is. The relevant question is whether Citizens United and its aftermath (namely, the decision in SpeechNowfrom the DC Circuit, and two FEC rulings) is responsible for the explosion of outside money sinceCitizens United. A few reactions, beginning with the most important.
1. As I told Matt, and what’s missing from this piece, is the realization that there was considerable legal risk in giving to a 527 before Citizens United and its aftermath. As one reader to commented to me, “Matt’s article suggests that not much has changed post-Citizens United because even prior to the CU decision, “you would have been free to write a check for any amount to a 527 . . . .” This is untrue and all three groups Matt cites were determined by the FEC to have violated federal law during the 2004 cycle. ACT paid a $775,000 fine (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2007/20070829act.shtml). SwiftVets paid a $299,500 fine (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2006/20061213murs.html). Club for Growth paid a $350,000 fine (http://www.fec.gov/press/press2007/20070905cfg.shtml).”
Conservative megadonors Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers and Donald Trump aren’t stopping with their efforts to swing the presidential election. Now, they’re shoveling cash into down-ticket races. Their big checks have helped state-focused GOP groups more than double the cash haul of their Democratic counterparts and open up another front that could help Mitt Romney beat President Barack Obama.Many of the hottest gubernatorial and legislative races are in key presidential election states, including North Carolina, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin, and the increased activity could add attention to conservative policies on critical issues like government spending, labor rights, voter access, gay rights and immigration, and could help tip the scales in Romney’s favor. Negative ads against the Democrats won’t hurt either.
In the age of eight-figure checks to super PACs, is it time for a constitutional amendment that could end this dangerous farce? The notion of fiddling with the First Amendment should make anyone nervous — especially anyone who has spent a career benefiting from it. Then again, so should Sheldon Adelson’s $10 million check to Mitt Romney’s super PAC. A system that lets one individual pump so much money into supporting a favored candidate threatens to substitute oligarchy for democracy. Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe has long opposed such tinkering. But writing last week for Slate, Tribe proposed an amendment, since introduced by Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), that would allow “content-neutral limitations” on independent expenditures. Tribe told me he changed his mind because “there’s no serious prospect” that a majority of the Supreme Court “will see the light in our lifetimes.” Meanwhile, he said, the “distortive effects of Citizens United and its aftermath are becoming clearer every week.”
To read the news coverage of late, you could be forgiven for thinking that we’re headed into a campaign in which super PACs will determine the winner. Ten million dollars from Sheldon Adelson here, $1 million from Bill Maher there, and it’s easy to conclude that these new organizations will have the biggest say in the identity of the next president and control of Congress. But it’s not quite so simple. In fact, the realities of campaign advertising today still put a premium on candidates themselves — and specifically, on their fundraising. As a rule of thumb, super PACs and national party committees pay significantly more for ad space (on average, about 40 to 50 percent more) than candidates do, meaning their dollar doesn’t go nearly as far on TV. And in a crowded media market, that markup can reach as high as three, four or even five times as much as the candidates when the super PACs and party committees have to pay extra to bump existing ads off the air. The Arizona special election on Tuesday is a good example of this ad reality.
Wisconsin: The Influence Industry: In Wisconsin recall, the side with most money won big | The Washington Post
If the Wisconsin recall battle was a test of the power of political spending, the big money won big. Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who survived an effort by Wisconsin Democrats to unseat him in a special election on Tuesday, outspent his opponent by more than 7-to-1 and easily overcame massive get-out-the-vote efforts by Democrats. The recall contest ranks as the most expensive in Wisconsin history, with well over $63 million spent by the candidates and interest groups combined. Walker was bolstered by wealthy out-of-state donors who gave as much as $500,000 each to his campaign under special state rules allowing incumbents to ignore contribution limits in a recall election. He raised $30.5 million compared to just $3.9 million by his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, according to data compiled by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. The big spending was made possible in part by the landmark Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission , which allowed corporations and unions to spend unlimited funds on elections and also made it easier for wealthy individuals to bankroll such efforts. Wisconsin was one of a number of states that had previously banned direct election spending by corporations and labor groups. As a result, many Democrats and campaign watchdog groups view the Wisconsin matchup as a test-run of sorts for November, when super PACs and other interest groups could spend $1 billion or more on political ads and organizing efforts in races for the White House and Congress. The outcome has also prompted hand-wringing on the left over whether pro-Democratic groups, which traditionally focus on ground-game organizing rather than advertising, will need to rethink their strategy.
The Wisconsin recall election for GOP Gov. Scott Walker has become the most expensive contest in state history, a non-profit watchdog group said Sunday. The Center for Public Integrity (CPI) said more than $63.5 million had been spent by Walker, his Democratic challenger Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and outside groups ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The tally which includes funds spent since November 2011 topped the 2010 gubernatorial contest, which held the previous record of $37.4 million. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the vote would be a “dry run” for Democrats ahead of November. Polls show Walker with a slight edge on Barrett, but Democrats are making a strong push this weekend to close the gap. Former President Bill Clinton visited the state on Friday to stump with Barrett.
Montana’s attorney general is due to file a brief Friday in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking it to uphold the state’s Corrupt Practices Act. This 1906 law prohibits corporations from making expenditures on behalf of candidates in Montana elections. The Supreme Court’s response could have repercussions far beyond Montana — the case may well determine how much states can regulate money in politics after Citizens United. The state high court cited Montana’s long history of corruption, when corporations often spent unlimited sums to steal elections, as the reason to narrow Citizens United and uphold the law. The Supreme Court should heed the Montana attorney general’s argument. More important, this case could offer the high court a viable means to revisit its Citizens United decision. This 2010 ruling, extended by lower federal courts, has spawned the super PACs now threatening to bring Wild West corruption to federal elections.
Editorials: The New York Times’ Disingenuous Campaign Against Citizens United | Wendy Kaminer/The Atlantic
Like Fox News, The New York Times has a First Amendment right to spread misinformation about important public issues, and it is exercising that right in its campaign against the Citizens United ruling. In news stories, as well as columns, it has repeatedly mischaracterized Citizens United, explicitly or implicitly blaming it for allowing unlimited “super PAC” contributions from mega-rich individuals. In fact, Citizens United enabled corporations and unions to use general treasury funds for independent political expenditures; it did not expand or address the longstanding, individual rights of the rich to support independent groups. And, as recent reports have made clear, individual donors, not corporations, are the primary funders of super PACs. When I first focused on the inaccurate reference to Citizens United in a front-page story about Sheldon Adelson, I assumed it was a more or less honest if negligent mistake. (And I still don’t blame columnists for misconceptions about a complicated case that are gleaned from news stories and apparently shared by their editors.) But mistakes aboutCitizens United are beginning to look more like propaganda, because even after being alerted to its misstatements, theTimes has continued to repeat them. First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams wrote to the editors pointing out mischaracterizations of Citizens United in two news stories, but instead of publishing corrections, the Times published Abrams’ letter on the editorial page, effectively framing a factual error as a difference of opinion. Since then the error has reappeared: A February 21 post by Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal attributes Sheldon Adelson’s ability to influence the election to Citizens United. “Thanks to Citizens United, unlimited contributions to third-party groups are legal,” Rosenthal asserts.
The super PAC mega-donors who dragged out the GOP primary are getting behind the establishment, rather than continuing to back rogue candidates and causes — as some in the Republican Party feared. Donors like Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, who gave millions to anti-establishment presidential primary campaigns, are starting to fall in line — promising to support Mitt Romney and cutting checks to groups fighting for congressional Republicans. Casino mogul Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who donated more than $15 million to a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, gave $5 million to a super PAC linked to House Speaker John Boehner in February — according to newly released filings. And Adelson is hosting a fundraiser next Friday at one of his Las Vegas hotels for a Boehner umbrella group that works closely with the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, POLITICO has learned.
THE video begins like this: wispy clouds drift over the great American outdoors. Cranes build an office block. Trucks roar down the highway. ”Capitalism made America great,” says a gravelly voice. ”The free market. Hard work. The building blocks of the American dream.” A family walks through a wheat field, where the Stars and Stripes waves briskly. ”But in the wrong hands, those dreams can turn into nightmares.” And storm clouds gather over the wheat field. The attack ad goes on to paint Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a corporate raider of the worst ilk, making his millions through stripping assets and staff from honest American businesses. It was exquisitely timed to upset Romney, as rival Republican Newt Gingrich accelerated his run towards his South Carolina primary win on January 21. But Gingrich’s name was not mentioned, nor did he endorse the ad (or later accept responsibility for its errors and exaggerations). It was paid for by a group called Winning Our Future.
With the Republican primary season winding down, it’s time to celebrate two heroes of participatory democracy, two champions of the ordinary voter, two men who did everything in their power to make the ballot box matter as much as the fundraising circuit. I speak, of course, of Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess. Adelson is the casino billionaire whose super PAC donations enabled Newt Gingrich to upset Mitt Romney in South Carolina and give him a scare in Florida. Friess is the investment manager whose super PAC donations enabled Rick Santorum to prolong the race through February and March. Both men are controversial; both have been cited as prime examples of the corrupting influence of great wealth on our politics. But both did more than anyone else to prevent the Republican primary from turning into a straightforward “money talks” affair.
Editorials: Crankocracy In America – Who Really Benefitted From Citizens United? | Timothy Noah/The New Republic
In 2009, Ralph Nader published a fantasia titled Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!, in which he imagined a group of maverick billionaires banding together to defeat corporate power in America. Declaring themselves “the Meliorists,” these enlightened oligarchs force Walmart to unionize, elect Warren Beatty governor of California, establish single-payer health insurance, raise the minimum wage to a livable salary, and in general breathe life back into liberalism. In 2012, something like Nader’s utopian scenario has begun to take shape, but with a radically different ideology. Super-rich, hard-right tycoons like Foster Friess (mutual funds), Harold Simmons (chemicals and metals), Bob Perry (home-building), and Sheldon Adelson (casinos) are, through the new vehicle called the super PAC, leveraging their fortunes to seize hold of the political process. Super PACs have made it so easy for millionaires and billionaires to spend unlimited sums on behalf of a particular candidate that these groups are now routinely outspending Republican presidential primary campaigns. Indeed, to a remarkable extent, these oligarch-controlled super PACs are the primary campaign. And, while both parties can create super PACs, so far GOP super PACs are burying their Democratic counterparts. Of the top ten individuals funding super PACs, only one—Jeffrey Katzenberg—is a Democrat.
More than two-thirds of the money to super PACs aligned with presidential candidates came from megadonors who each contributed $500,000 or more, demonstrating how a handful of wealthy interests have helped turn the GOP presidential primary into the longest-running nomination fight in a generation. No group relied more heavily on a few super donors than the political committee backing former House speaker Newt Gingrich: 96% of contributions to the pro-Gingrich Winning Our Future came from this elite group, a USA TODAY analysis shows. More than $16 million flowed from a single source: Las Vegas casino titan Sheldon Adelson and his relatives. Restore Our Future, a super PAC aiding former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, relied on nearly 52% of its contributions from corporations or individuals who gave $500,000 or more, the lowest share of super donors among the candidate-aligned super PACs analyzed by USA TODAY.
Tales of super PAC spending in the Republican presidential race talk about the millions of dollars pouring into their coffers. A few specific donors are mentioned. There’s Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate whose contributions have kept Newt Gingrich in the contest far longer than his own meager fundraising would normally have allowed. And hedge fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who recently told the Chicago Tribune that he thinks the wealthy “actually have an insufficient influence” in the political system. But Griffin has given only $400,000 to super PACs in the 2012 cycle, which puts him on the lower end of the scale of leading super PAC donors.
The next frontier for super PACs: playing in Senate and House party leadership elections. The formula is simple. Raise $10 million from the jet set or grass-roots followers, spend it on 40 to 50 House districts or 15 Senate races and then call in favors when it’s time to count votes for speaker, floor leader or whip. The model has been built. The money’s out there. And there’s no shortage of ambition in Congress. The question is: Can anyone put it all together?
Editorials: The Numbers Don’t Lie – If you aren’t sure Citizens United gave rise to the super PACs, just follow the money | Slate Magazine
Most of what you hear about Citizens United v. FEC is negative. By opening the door for corporations to spend unlimited sums in elections and to allow for the creation of super PACs, the Supreme Court has made a campaign finance system that was already flooded with money much worse. But Citizens United obviously has its defenders, and they have advanced a number of arguments to try to blunt criticism of the Supreme Court’s controversial decision: The public actually learns from the flood of negative advertising coming from these super PACs; super PACS increase competition; The Supreme Court’sCitizens United decision didn’t create super PACs, so stop blaming the court for the flood of dollars and the negative campaign ads they buy.
This last argument has recently gained a lot of traction, and has been made by First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, his son the legal commentator Dan Abrams (who accused the media of “shameful, inexcusable conduct” in describing the Citizens United-super PAC connection), columnist George Will, and the Atlantic’s Wendy Kaminer. The argument goes like this: The Supreme Court back in 1976 held that individuals had a constitutional right to spend unlimited sums on elections. And before Citizens United, rich individuals like George Soros gave large sums of money to so-called “527 organizations” (named after an obscure section of the tax code) with innocuous names like “Americans Coming Together.” These 527 organizations were just like super PACs, so there’s nothing new here.
When it comes to super PACs, it’s getting hard to tell the difference between reality and a Comedy Central bit. Stephen Colbert made an ongoing gag last month out of lampooning the rules barring coordination between outside groups and campaigns. When he announced a plan to run for president, he made a big show of handing off his super PAC to his fellow Comedy Central host Jon Stewart. Stewart promised not to coordinate with Colbert — giving the camera a wink and a nod. But it was no joke last week when President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney cleared their top aides to raise cash for the super PACs supporting their campaign.