New Super-PAC Threatens to Destroy Candidates Who Side With the People Over Wall Street
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A new super-PAC with the purpose of destroying elected officials who oppose the interests of the super-PAC’s founders rather than focusing on electing candidates who favor their interests demonstrates how the movement conservatives on the Supreme Court have fundamentally altered our system.
A super-PAC is a political action committee with no limits on personal or corporate contributions and no limits on the amounts it spends. This system of unlimited corporate –and billionaire – spending for and against candidates was enabled by the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United that said corporations are “people” and the use of corporate money to influence elections is “speech.”
The extended Republican presidential primaries this year show us the power of this unlimited contribution/spending system. In previous primary campaigns candidates who were not gaining traction with the public would be forced to drop out of the race because they could not raise the funds needed to travel and advertise. Michelle Bachmann’s campaign is an example of this.
But some of the candidates in this primary season were able to continue to campaign because of backing by extremely wealthy people. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum had the backing of wealthy individuals contributing very large amounts, and have stayed in the race much longer than they otherwise would be able to.
The super-PAC system is also bringing changes to the way corporations influence lawmakers.
Buying Legislators Can Be Expensive
Today’s system of buying legislators is effective but somewhat expensive. This system involves investing in the purchase of numerous legislators through campaign contributions and/or offers of lucrative post-government-service jobs to legislators and staffers. This system generates tremendous returns—a few million spread around can yield billions.
The poster-child of this old system, of course, remains Representative Billy Tauzin (R-LA), who was chairman of the committee in the House that regulates the pharmaceutical industry. Tauzin ushered through the Medicare prescription drug program that was so beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry. He retired very soon after it passed to take a job as head of the pharmaceutical lobbying group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. According to Bloomberg News Tauzin received lobbying income of $11.6 million in 2010.
But this model of spreading millions around to gain influence still requires spreading the millions around. A million here, a million there, after a while it can add up.
(By the way, if you think – as our Supreme Court does – that this is not bribery, ask yourself why else would a corporation do this , if not expecting to profit? After all, if a corporation is not engaging in purchasing legislators for the company’s profit, it is violating its fiduciary responsibility. )
Threatening Legislators with Destruction Is Much More Cost-Effective
A new banker super-PAC is pioneering a more cost-effective method of dealing with legislators who stand in their way. Instead of long-term investment in the purchase of a lawmaker, this new method is much more direct and immediate. The super-PAC lets it be known that it has gathered a large sum of money. If a lawmaker dares to side with the public (the 99%) against the banks (the 1%), the super-PAC can threaten to unleash unlimited funds to destroy that candidate, run millions of dollars of smear ads on local TV stations, spread rumors on right-wing internet sites, sic Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck on them, etc.
The key to the cost-effectiveness of this approach is that they will rarely have to actually follow through on the threat, and spend the money. Just the threat is sufficient. Few elected officials will be able to stand up to a threat of unlimited millions spent destroying him or her. If anyone actually does resist, making an example by publicly destroying that lawmaker will serve as sufficient warning to the rest.