Editorial - Super PAC spending must be reigned in
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 00:10
West Virginia citizens gathered at the state’s capitol Tuesday to voice their dissent on Citizens United and deliver signed petitions appealing to the legislature to consider a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment.
Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission, decided in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court, decided first amendment rights granted in the constitution prohibit the government from enforcing limits on political expenditures by corporations or unions. By granting corporate entities and other bodies the ability to utilize money as free speech, an unprecedented amount of campaign spending is freely part of the current political process.
This will mark the first presidential election since the passage and approval of Citizens United. The case has also opened the door for another mode of securing campaign capital – namely, Super PACs.
Political Action Committees are defined as any organization that campaigns for or against candidates, platforms, initiatives or legislation. In the eyes of the federal government, an organization becomes a PAC once it spends more than $1,000 in the name of furthering its political ideals.
Super PACs take this practice to the extreme. While it’s important to remember that Super PACs cannot make donations to political campaigns or parties, they are allowed to spend independently of these entities. They’re also capable of raising unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions or individuals.
In the 2012 Republican primaries, Super PACs spent more money than any candidate’s campaign. "Restore Our Future," one of the larger Super PACs credited with supporting the Romney campaign, as spent more than $40 million this election cycle.
The egregious level of unregulated spending allowed by Citizens United has created a divide in the electorate that inherently favors those who are able to spend large amounts of money in the interest of political campaigns.
Since their creation, Super PACs have historically outspent traditional campaigns 2-1, and many conceal the identities of their donors – further obscuring the true nature of these organizations.
Regardless of political affiliation, most citizens may be able to agree that the inequity of a decision that allows such unquestioned overspending is detrimental to the democratic process.