Citizens United Makes For Blurry Lines For Presidential Campaigns And Super PACs

With the hurricane taking over the new cycle not much has been able to break through - but this outstanding piece in the New York Times was posted yesterday that talks about the unfortunate backlash from the Citizens United ruling.

"The event was not a fund-raiser for Mr. Romney’s campaign, however, but for Restore Our Future, a political action committee founded by his allies. And only when Mr. Romney left the room did one of the group’s officials stand up to brief the donors on their plans: to raise and spend millions of dollars in unrestricted campaign donations — something presidential candidates are forbidden to do themselves — to help elect Mr. Romney president."

Romney has been on of the leaders in using open campaign finance laws to raise unlimited amounts of money through state PACs, super PACs, as well as his presidential committee.

"The fact that Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is weighing a run for president in 2012, has an active political action committee in Alabama might seem puzzling.

It is, after all, not a critical early-voting state for the Republican nomination, where these kinds of leadership PACs are often set up by potential presidential candidates.
Upon closer inspection, though, Mr. Romney’s interest in Alabama snaps into focus. The state has among the most permissive campaign finance rules in the nation, allowing contributions of unlimited size from individuals and corporations.
As a result, the Alabama affiliate of Mr. Romney’s federal PAC, Free and Strong America, has raised more than $440,000 this year, with many of the contributions amounting to tens of thousands of dollars each."

It shouldn't be shocking that's the reason that the President intends to raise over $1 billion for his campaign. The graph below shows the difference in time that candidates spend with voters when they're campaigns are being publicly financed through clean elections vs. when they're being paid for by donors.


Since money is speech if you don't have money does that mean that you don't have speech? Because it seems clear that unless you pay for it, its the only way you get to actually talk to candidates anymore.

A few weeks ago the re-call elections in Wisconsin indicate that about $40 million was spent on a total of nine elections. Contrast that with the 2010 Election where the state had 116 races and a total of only $17.5 million was raised and spent.

In the 1976 Buckley vs. Valejo decision from the Supreme Court ruling they made a clear distinction between contributions to a campaign and spending. At that time Justice Kennedy said Buckley opened a dangerous door to campaign finance law saying that on-sided regulations created not clean and free expression but "covert speech funded by unlimited soft money." Thirty-five years later his words are a haunting reminder of this new world we live in where elections are not about issues or ideas but about money and promises of corporate back-scratching once elected.


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