$350 Million dollars. That’s the estimated amount of money spent during the 2012 election. An estimated $240 million of that is not even spent by candidates. The 2012 races has seen the greatest number of Political Action Committees (PACs) ever. These committees spent millions and millions of dollars to help candidates get elected, or legislature passed without regulation. What started as advocacy groups supporting a cause, has turned into big corporations protecting their money and their personal interests. PACs can be beneficial but without more regulation their corruption hurts our government more than help it. The term “Super PAC,” was coined by reporter Eliza Newlin Carney of the National Journal on June 26, 2010 (“What are SuperPACs?”). This was the new nickname of PACs with seemingly endless amounts of money.
Originally there were two types of PACs, one was Separate Segregated Funds (SSFs). SSFs were created by corporations, membership organizations, or trade associations. These organizations could only solicit for money from people directly associated with the sponsor organization. These groups could not pool money from multiple groups or corporations (“What are SuperPACs?”). This prevented mass amounts of money from multiple groups being pooled in one place.
The other type of PAC was a non-connected committee. These committees were not sponsored by business or any organization. They were strictly limited to soliciting directly from the public. They were also subject to certain contribution limits (“What are SuperPACs.”). This allowed for the pubic to advocate for causes without being tied up with corporations. The contribution limits also prevented one billionaire from dictating the entire group. Overall these PACs worked to support causes that were important to the people. They also had regulation from the Federal Election Committee (FEC).
The FEC is directly responsible for regulating election campaign finance. They investigate how PACs and campaigns are spending money. They also enforce limitations and prohibitions on expenditures made by political campaign organizations (“What is the Federal…”). This system worked well to keep groups of organizations and the upper class from trying to push legislature to protect their money. This was all before Super PACs became a game changer in recent years.
Super PACs differ from the regular PACs in one major way: they have almost no regulation. They can raise money from many companies as well as the public with no legal limitations. They can spend that money however they feel will support the cause with no regulation. In recent years they do not have to tell the FEC where the money is coming from (Kroll). Their whole job is to try to influence the election and once the election is over, they try to push for certain legislature to be passed. This system leaves a lot of room for corruption and dark money. How can the government approve of these groups that run around and do what please with money that no one knows where it came from?
There were two major court cases that dramatically changed how PACs were regulated. The first was Citizens United vs. FEC. Citizens United was a PAC that produced a film about Hilary Clinton during the 2008 presidential race. The FEC tried to apply the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA). In attempt to regulate “big money” campaign contributions BCRA applies to a variety of restriction to “electioneering communications.” Electioneering communications is any broadcast near election time that is clearly supporting or against a candidate (“The Nut…”). In section 203 of the BCRA prevents corporations or labor unions from funding electioneering communications. Section 201 and 311 also require a disclaimer in the communication when it is not authorized by the candidate it intends to support (“Citizens United…”). Citizens United won the court battle saying it was an infringement on Freedom...