Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas for the Community Newspaper Publisher’s Summit. It’s always interesting when you can share issues and concerns with folks from around the country. One popular issue that repeatedly comes up in conversation — especially from folks in cities like Las Vegas where over the top spending is extremely evident to this small town boy — is that of the Super PAC and those behind their funding. One example includes casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, who are bank rolling the PAC of Republican candidate Newt Gingrich to the tune of $10 million and climbing.
Being super rich has its privileges, but in a democracy such as we have in the United States, being that rich should not allow you to sway voter opinion to the point that one person can buy an election. So far this election season we’ve seen these Super PACs primarily controlled by a limited few, pouring millions into advertising campaigns bashing opponents not of their liking. Of course, once the party race is ultimately decided and these groups have assassinated the character of all the candidates, they’ll kiss and make up, go into round two and do it all over again, this time pointing their venom against the opposite party nominee.
So far I haven’t told you anything new. My point is I haven’t spoken to anyone outside of politics who thinks these Super PACs nor the control they give to those funding them has any place in the American political landscape. Based not only on casual conversation but from reader emails and letters responding to previous columns on the subject, it seems very clear that no one favors this license to sway voter influence. Even President Obama referred to this level of action as a “threat to our democracy.”
Other than those funding the PACs or those benefiting from the money spent, like major media outlets, I’ve not heard from anyone who can see anything positive or fair about this new wrinkle in the election season.
And why should they? It seems very obvious to even the most non-interested political person that this process is nothing more than a scam that will be eliminated in the near future, due to the undue influence it provides a select few and the foolish waste of millions of dollars. That money should be put to better use given the state of our economy. Why we address this error after the fact and not before can only be attributed to …”it’s just politics.”
It also clearly points out the vast divide between those who have so much wealth they have nothing better to do with it than flaunt it and those who struggle to pay the monthly mortgage and put food and the table. I have nothing against wealth, but wealth of this excess can only lead to greed and turmoil in a “me society” that seems hell bent on win at all cost. In a society where respect for each other’s rights and opportunity for all should be the responsibility of us all, the message sent by this back door, “wink-winks” only serves to damage the union and discourage voter participation.
When the votes of thousands of voters can be trumped by the influence of one very powerful member of an elite society, it jeopardizes the rights of average Americans who become pawns in a system designed and created to insure that the power rests with the people in the democracy. How the Supreme Court could interprete the granting of this form of influence over our political process in their 2010 Citizens United Ruling as anything constructive or fair is beyond comprehension.
So the question becomes, how do we put a stop to this new practice before it goes too far, if it hasn’t already? Elected officials and candidates play stupid on the subject insisting they can’t control the actions of their supporters. Those behind the Super PACs claim to be following the law and doing their patriotic duty by distributing valuable information to the public. As citizens we must demand that this manipulation of facts and hijacking of our political process come to an end. Until we speak up we can only expect more of the same and the strength of our vote is diluted even further if this ruling is allowed to stand. We need many reforms in the country to get back to the intent of the founding fathers. This one certainly needs to be on the priority list.
Dan Alexander is publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.