I’d like to think that some folks have concerns like I do about super-PACs and PACs in general in US politics. Recently a considerable amount of press attention has been paid to these organizations which allegedly represent private interests in political affairs. Politcal Action Committees are actually fund raising vehicles for political messaging that remains one step removed from candidates, which is an incredibly handy way of pouring out aggressive messages without taking the flak for what is being said. Of course the PACs are on the hook for what they say, but candidates and parties are not, enabling the oh-so coveted deniability that is so beneficial to candidates.
In Canadian federal politics, we have what amounts to a vow of poverty in funding. All candidates and parties are funded in part from a government kitty allocated by formula and private, union and corporate donations are limited to trivial amounts and fully disclosed. The virtuous consequence is the parties don’t have much money to spend, so election cycles are quick, efficient and cheap. Financial influence over candidates and parties is unthinkable in this scenario, and lobbying is also regulated to keep money and power at arm’s length. Many of these reforms have been brought in by the current Conservative government – a sign of mature statesmanship we haven’t seen the likes of in the US in many years.
PACs, by contrast, are decidedly spooky, with charitable arms which require no donor disclosure and the ability to accept unlimited funding from donors of any kind, virtually assuring that they are controlled by moneyed interests who want to control government. It is no secret that the war chest of advertising funding is one of the key abilities parties look for in candidates and this with good cause… advertising sways the electorate whether people like it or not. The theory that PACs enable free speech and are constitutionally sacred is rather silly in a world where free speech costs practically nothing on the web. Instead what PACs enable is an arms race for advertising funding, which the media loves, and candidates cannot ignore.
There is a price for this election spending gluttony and that is government that caters to money-raising interests rather than the interests of the people. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, it is a structural issue in funding policies in America that results in corruption of the attention of legislators, favouring big blocks of organized interest instead of the interest of the people.
Take a page from the Canadian book if you want your country back, my friends south of the border… until you take the money out of the electioneering game you are going to continue to suffer horribly corrupt leadership in your political institutions.