from an expert in the field:
Anthony Sanders is an attorney with the Institute for Justice
MAY DEBATE RESULTS:
Should juries for high-profile
criminal trials be anonymous?
SHOULD VOTERS BE allowed to decide what information they want to
consider before casting their ballots, or should the government decide that
for them? In a free society, the correct answer, of course, is that voters
Super PACs are groups of people who pool their money to spend on
political speech about candidates. Before Citizens United v. Federal Election
Commission, and a related case,
SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election
Commission, it was illegal for individuals to join forces and spend more than $5,000 apiece to
promote or oppose a candidate. That meant it was harder for people to exercise their First
Amendment right to speak out about politics, and it meant the only candidates who could
afford to run for office were those with a very broad base of donors or who were self-financed.
Simply put, the government was censoring speech and preventing voters from hearing
about other candidates, and in turn preventing those candidates from running competitive
races. It’s no wonder our incumbent reelection rate is as high as it is.
Super PACs have the potential to change that. Thanks to super PACs, voters now have more
political speech available to them. Allowing people to pool their money and speak out about
candidates adds to the dynamic conversation that makes a strong democracy possible.
Super PACs have also made races more competitive. Candidates who before would be out
of luck are able to run competitive campaigns because their supporters can speak freely on their
More speech and more competitive candidates result in more informed voters with more
choices. What voters do with that information and those choices is up to them. Ultimately, the
only thing super PACs can do is attempt to persuade voters. Those who complain about super
PACs are really complaining that those efforts might be successful, and they want to use the
force of government to stop it. But that sort of paternalistic thinking is what the Supreme Court
in Citizens United rightly described as using “censorship to control thought.”
The rulings in Citizens United and
SpeechNow.org properly rejected that sort of censorship.
The result has been more speech, which means a better-functioning democracy. That’s some-
thing all American voters should celebrate. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by May 15, 2012.
APRIL DEBATE RESULTS:
Do the benefits of “fracking”
outweigh the risks?
YES: 92% NO: 8%
Percentage reflects votes received by
April 30, 2012. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
from an expert in the field:
Meredith McGehee is policy director for the Campaign Legal Center
SUPER PACS are a blight on America’s political system.
They provide a means for very wealthy individuals and corporate special
interests to evade anti-corruption laws that have been on the books for
decades. The courts have long recognized that large contributions to political
candidates can corrupt and reduce public confidence in our democratic sys-
tem, so they have upheld amount limits on contributions to candidates, as
well as outright bans on corporate and union contributions to candidates. But
today, super PACs are operating as de facto campaigns unrestricted by such contribution limits.
Super PACs have the ability to both distort the political process and affect the outcome of
elections. At a minimum, their spending buys access and influence for the super PAC funders.
Some claim that because a super PAC can’t contribute directly to a candidate and can only
make supposedly “independent expenditures,” there is no threat of corruption. The reality, however, is that super PACs work hand-in-glove with the candidate’s campaign. For example, the
individuals running Restore Our Future ran Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2008. The
brain trust behind Priorities USA Action worked at the Obama White House and in the 2008
Obama campaign. Furthermore, candidates and their staff are permitted to be featured guests at
super PAC fundraisers.
Even more troubling is the growing number of shadow super PACs that are funneling secret
money into elections. These groups claim to be 501(c)( 4) social welfare or 501(c)( 6) trade organizations, but are undertaking significant election-related activities. Contributions to these tax-exempt organizations do not have to be disclosed under current tax law. In essence, this new
scheme is allowing corporations and individuals to evade disclosure of their electoral spending
by laundering money through third-party organizations not covered by current disclosure laws.
The truth is super PACs empower the moneyed special interests in our political system and
threaten to turn our democratic system into a plutocracy. Claims that super PACs promote free
speech confuse the freedom to speak your mind with the ability to use vast resources of wealth
to distort the process and to drown out the voices of average Americans. Money and speech are
not the same. The Supreme Court got it wrong in the Citizens United case, and we are now living with the unfortunate, troublesome consequences. C
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented
and are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take
no position on any Debate topic.
JUNE 2012 The Costco Connection 19