The sudden rise of Super PACs are almost exclusively tied to the Supreme Court ruling on Citizen’s United v. Federal Elections Commission. This in turn will grant corporations, unions and individuals the right to donate unlimited funds to outside groups to campaign for or against candidates (1).
Inherently, the ‘Citizen’s United’ Supreme Court decision will allow big business and unions the same rights as individuals; allowing direct and indirect contributions to flow through political elections. Funds that are raised are generally distributed through routes of PACs. In the United States, a PAC or (Political Action Commitee) was generally a name given to a group or an organization whose sole purpose was to provide financial aid in the election of political candidates or to advance the outcome of a political issue or legislation (2). PACs have been regulated through the Federal Election Commision or FEC. Traditionally, these PACs raise and receive money from managers and shareholders in the case of their sponsor; in turn, these groups issue funds to candidates that are seeking office. Direct contributions from corporate or labor union entities to political candidates are illegal; therefore it is possible to reroute funds through a PAC in the form of financial support and administrative assistance. Despite these safe checks and balances, regulation from the FEC has slowly been eroded:
Contributions by individuals to federal PACs are limited to $5,000 per year. It is important to note, however, that as a result of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision in ‘SpeechNow.org v. FEC‘, PACs which make only “independent expenditures” (that is, advertisements or other spending that calls for the election or defeat of a federal candidate but which is not coordinated with a federal candidate or political party) are not bound by this contribution limit (4)
The influence of major elections has been redistributed from a two part combination of the rulings on ‘SpeechNow.org’ and ‘Citizen’s United’ against the FEC. The 2010 election exclusively marks the rise of “independent-expenditure only committees” or basically Super PACs. These groups are able to raise unlimited sums from corporations, unions and other groups, as well as individuals (5). In the same year, liberal Super PACs have raised nearly $28 million, while their conservative counterparts have raised $35 million to spend on the 2010 midterms (2). With relation to conservative gains in the midterms, it is possible to relate the change in tide to the influence of Super PACs. Within this corporate test mode of finance, you can be sure to see an influx of Super PAC activity as the nation gears up for the 2012 elections.
This op-ed piece from MSNBC news correspondent – Keith Olbermann – details the dire situation in which this final court decision may have on American politic life (3):
NOTE: While published in early 2010, Olbermann predicts the current political situation in Ohio, Florida, and Wisconsin [3; at 4 minutes and 39 seconds].
- United States. Supreme Court. US Supreme Court Cases from Justia & Oyez [558 U.S. 08-205 ]. By Reporter of Decisions. Oct. 2009. Web. 12 July 2011. <http://supreme.justia.com/us/558/08-205/>
- Cordes, Nancy. “Colbert Gets a Super PAC; So What Are They? – CBS News.” Breaking News Headlines: Business, Entertainment & World News – CBS News. 30 June 2011. Web. 12 July 2011. <http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/06/30/eveningnews/main20075941.shtml>
- Olberman/MSNBC, Keith. “Keith Olbermann on “Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission”.” YouTube – Broadcast Yourself. Mmflint, 21 Jan. 2010. Web. 12 July 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKZKETizybw>
- “SpeechNow.org v. FEC » Newsroom » Center for Competitive Politics.” Center for Competitive Politics. Federal Election Commission, 6 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 July 2011. <http://www.campaignfreedom.org/newsroom/page/speechnoworg-v-fec>.
- “Center for Responsive Politics.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Open Source, Spring 2010. Web. 12 July 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_for_Responsive_Politics>.