Unlike Anything Seen Before In American Politics
The McCain-Feingold Act of 2002 prohibited business corporations and labor unions from taking money out of their treasuries for the purpose of funding advertisements mentioning a candidate within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election.
In 2010, however, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. The Court’s majority thus equated organizations with individuals and allowed them to donate unlimited amounts of money to political action committees (PACs) so heavily endowed that they became tagged as super PACs. They may not be directly connected to candidates nor donate money directly to them, but they may overtly propagate for or against political candidates.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the super PAC “Restore Our Future” has so far raised roughly $60 million in support of presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, more than for any other candidate. With almost $30 million accumulated, Carl Rove’s super PAC “American Crossroads” has used its funds mostly on bluntly anti-Obama advertising which calls the President “radical” and accuses him of lacking integrity.
Among the apparent losers among the Republican candidates for president, former Speaker Newt Gingrich accumulated almost $24 million in the super PAC “Winning our Future.” Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum still controls over $8 million in the super PAC “Red, White & Blue.” The Internet publication Common Dreams claims that Republican super PACs and their leaders--including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—plan spend over $1 billion before the general elections “in a bid to ram Mitt Romney into the White House and influence more control in Congress in November.”
Reporters of Washington D.C.’s Politico claim that "The Republican financial plans are unlike anything seen before in American politics. If the GOP groups hit their targets, they likely could outspend their liberal adversaries by at least two-to-one.” Steven Law, the president of super PAC “American Crossroads,” confirmed Politico’s hunch: “The intensity on the right is white-hot. We just can’t leave anything in the locker room. And there is a greater willingness to cooperate and share information among outside groups on the center-right.”
The only liberal super PAC among the leading five recorded an income of $10.6 million. It goes by the name “Priorities US Action” and supports President Obama’s reelection. As usual, pro-Democratic PACs are benefiting mainly from donations by organized labor, from lawyers and lobbyists, and from the communications and electronics industry.
Since elected officials and political parties cannot give more than the federal limit directly to candidates, they arranged for themselves the so-called Leadership PACs. They are allowed to spend unlimited amounts independently, as long as the expenditures are not coordinated with another candidate. FEC rules provide that Leadership PACs are “non-connected” PACs and can therefore accept donations from individuals and other PACs. The rules stress that “A leadership PAC sponsored by an elected official cannot use funds to support that official's own campaign. However, it may fund travel, administrative expenses, consultants, polling, and other non-campaign expenses.”
FEC records show that, as of May 21, at least 30 billionaires had donated money to “Restore Our Future,” the Romney-backing super PAC. Among the billionaire donors are oil and gas pioneer Harold Hamm who gave $985,000, Jim Davis, who made his fortune with New Balance sneakers, donated $1 million. The hotel heirs Bill and Richard Marriott have each given $1 million to the cause. Hedge fund billionaire John Paulson donated $1 million and Tiger Management founder Julian Robertson $1.25 million. David Koch’s twin brother Bill Koch so far gave $2 million, both personally and via his Oxbow Carbon Company. Citadel hedge fund boss Ken Griffin contributed over $2.85 million since December.For a new record attempt to buy a presidential election, the billionaire Koch brothers' groups alone have been reported to plan a spending blitz of more money than John McCain enjoyed in his entire presidential campaign in 2008.