Point-Counterpoint: Are Super PACs beneficial?

BY DI STAFF | AUGUST 06, 2015 5:00 AM

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They must be regulated

Super PACs, love them or loathe them, have become an integral aspect of the political process. They’re pumped full of money in each two- or four-year cycle, each vaguely serving different political parties and financing campaigns nationwide.

But what exactly are they? Political Action Committees are organizations created by politically like-minded individuals in order to further special causes through their monetary donations. So, one would assume, a Super PAC is a manifestation of this idea in mammoth proportions.

This is true, to a certain degree. They are without a doubt financially huge, with the Los Angeles Times reporting an astonishing $546.5 million donated in the 2012 presidential election. The main distinction between the ideal representation of PACs versus their unfortunate reality of the situation of American politics is that these organizations allow candidates to maneuver existing around campaign regulations, such as the $2,700 individual donor cap. Super PACs, however, provide essentially unlimited fiscal resources to whichever campaign they align themselves with.

Another unfortunate reality of politics in modernity, though, is the culture outside of super PACs is dominated by money to begin with. It is well-known that high-ranking political officials exist in and come from some of the wealthiest American families.

Nepotism and oligarchism aside, money funneled into super PACs can elevate even the least likely of candidates. Think of Donald Trump, meticulously arranging each strand of his golden comb-over in front of a mirror of gold and ivory, who is worth roughly $4 billion (or perhaps $10 billion). He leads the GOP presidential polls with 26 percent of self-identified Republican voters, according to Fox News. Even he has Super PAC backing, the Washington Post reported in April — though the man with hair we may never have scientific evidence to prove is balding claims to be unaware of the donor.

This problem is exacerbated through candidates such as Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton extensively establishing and funding Super PACS tailored to their political desires prior to announcing their candidacies. The New York Times noted an unprecedented surge in Super PAC donations mere months before the slew of formal presidential-campaign declarations.

The greased pockets of American government are, without a doubt, a problem. Unregulated Super PACs is an aspect of this problem. Some could argue that at least they offer some degree of transparency in terms of campaign spending, but others argue that is not enough.

Heavy regulation is imperative for Super PACs, because anything dealing with such absurd amounts of money warrants astute and meticulous supervision and control.

— Jack Dugan

A future for politics?

Though they are often associated with the hereditary link between money and politics in our elections, Super PACs actually serve an important function for candidates in addition to encouraging transparency for the American voter, on where fundraising is allocated. I, for one, fundamentally stand opposed to the blurring of corporations and candidates, but furthermore, I am disgusted by the two-party system to which our political system subscribes.

Super PACs, which are essentially massive, independent expenditure-only committees, must operate within specific financial parameters. Regardless of their ability to garner unlimited sums of money from various entities ranging from corporations to individuals, each Super PAC must report its donors to the Federal Election Commission monthly or quarterly— in the same fashion its little siblings, Political Action Committees, do.

In the 2010 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case SpeechNow.org vs. FEC, judges determined the FEC was infringing upon SpeechNow’s First Amendment rights by capping the amount of individuals’ contributions to the organization. The controversial Citizens United v. FEC in 2011 effectively further recognized corporate donations as a protected form of free speech. Thus, the Super PAC, as we know it, was born.

Despite my deeply rooted abhorrence toward corporations and their reputation of suppressing people (often through politically veiled means), Super PACs are federally obligated to maintain monetary transparency alongside their political influence.

An important distinction must be raised between these entities and the “dark money” organizations that are utilized by candidates. 501(c)(4) and 501(c)(6) nonprofits, which are social-welfare and trade-association organizations respectively, are the primary source of monetary political evil (vaguely sounding and operating analogous to the dark matter that physicists fixate on in the cosmos). They can fund campaigns unbridled to sway influence in elections without revealing or reporting the sources of their sizable wallets.

When we fear money in campaigns, these are the entities we should fear.

Super PACs allow a candidate to individualize their campaign outside of their affiliated political-party platforms. In order to run under each respective party, candidates must subscribe to their party’s respective, reactionary umbrella stances on broad issues, but a political agenda through Super PACs transcends such bloated planks.

I often cite George Washington’s Farewell Address, which warned the nation about political parties and “the founding of them on geographical discrimination,” but Super PACs may offer a new light. By separating money from political parties (which stagnate national narratives and progress), Super PACs instead inject unfathomable amounts of money into campaigns, which could possibly serve as a mechanism in dismantling the two-party system in this country.

— Paul Osgerby

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