11182017Headline:

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Greg Webb
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How Super are SuperPacs?

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“SuperPAC”, the acronym for Super Political Action Committee, caused me to shudder instinctively the first time I heard it. Would democracy be threatened by the influence of super corporate donors? SuperPACs, which have been “playing a significant role” during the presidential pre-election ramp-up, are receiving more money from corporate sources than in the past year, according to what we can observe with our own eyes on television, and also according to a recent Washington Post article entitled, “Corporations are sending more contributions to super PACs”.

An Idaho company donated $1 million to a political organization backing Mitt Romney, according to federal records released this week. The company had $1 billion in sales last year derived from selling vitamins, environmentally-friendly cleaning materials and other household products. Do we really want a dietary supplement producer influencing the election of the highest office in the land at a time when the FDA is attempting to raise the bar of standards on the contents and labeling of dietary supplements?

Federal records reportedly show that 23 percent of funds going to SuperPACs are now coming from corporations rather than individuals, which is an increase of approximately 4 percent since the 2010 election cycle. We are, of course, headed for the presidential election and the stakes are exponentially higher. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010, which overturned a 20-year-old ruling that formerly had permitted state laws to prohibit corporations and unions from using money from their general treasuries to produce and run their own campaign advertisements, paved the way for corporations to donate big money – really big money. While money has always been the life's blood of elections, the big difference after Citizens United is that corporations, including publicly traded corporations, are now not limited (except by whatever internal restrictions they may implement, or by how their shareholders "vote") in how much of that life's blood they can pump into the SuperPAC (i.e., candidate) that meets their financial needs.

Some politicians, including the President, have questioned the ruling and are concerned that big corporate funding may corrupt the democratic process. Many Americans have the same concerns. Now, within the last day, the Obama has yielded to the pressure to remain competitive in light of the tens of millions of dollars that the Republican SuperPACs have raised, and, in particular, the war chest raised by Mitt Romney's supporting SuperPAC. “The combination of the sheer magnitude of what we were watching on the Republicans’ side, combined with the lack of any real ammunition on our side, was disconcerting,” said an Obama adviser who wanted to remain anonymous. The campaign's decision has caused much criticism from both the Republican party and the liberal wing of the Democratic party. It appears, however, that President Obama's pragmatic side won out over idealism. As the old saying goes, if you can't beat them, join them. It is just unfortunate that money is now even more of a factor in the American election process, and that is hard to fathom given the millions upon millions that have been spent in the past decade.