The Danger of SuperPACS
By Anna Tender
Over the years, “SuperPACs” have become a notorious name in the American political system. PAC stands for political action committees which, in basic terms, raise money for political candidates in hopes to sway that candidate’s views and possibility of prevailing in the election. Political action committees are not all that bad, as they allow campaign advertisements to be sponsored, and amplify the elections importance in the eyes of citizens. However, when combined into what is known as a “superPAC,” political action committees yield an incredible amount of power over the outcomes of elections, continuing the theme in American politics in which a small group has significant control over the workings of politics and therefore government. In this case, the economic elite are those in control.
The disenfranchisement of poor voters is quite frequently spoken about on liberal news media, yet, many people fail to speak openly and directly about the other end of the spectrum: the great amount of political influence that the rich have over politics. PACs have always been looming over the heads of politicians, yet in the past they could not do much, as a result of limits on donations per each political action committee. In fact, it was not truly until 2010 that political action committees became a serious threat to the basic framework of American democracy. It had been ruled previously in the Supreme Court by Buckley v. Valeo, that money was a form of free speech, meaning individuals could donate as much as they wanted to political campaigns. While this did contribute to the problem of elite control of the U.S., it was not until the landmark case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, where superPACs truly overtook American democracy. This case, in simplest terms, stated that companies were entitled to the same rights as citizens, so, since citizens could express free speech by means of monetary donations, so could corporations. The case therefore allowed PACs to give unlimited amounts of money, or “independent expenditures” to politicians and parties. This began a recent and fiery debate over how much control companies now have in the American political system.
As much as politicians might like to deny their involvement, superPACs do play a very large part in government as they aid politicians to help swing elections in their favor. In 1988, a campaign that supported George H.W. Bush, released an advertisement in which claimed that his democratic opponent, Michael Dukakis, released a prisoner only to have the man kill again. While the ad did have a skewed perspective on the entire issue, it hurt Dukakis’ campaign immensely.
Not only do political action committees and other “big spenders” work in order to get a candidate elected, but they also donate these large sums of money for other reasons such as to aid in the government deregulation of their company or to attain a personal favor. This idea has been explored in recent months when looking at how the seemingly under-qualified Betsy DeVos was nominated and subsequently confirmed as the Secretary of Education. When looking at their spending history, the DeVos family has spent over $8.3 million in donations to republican benefitting superPACs. This money went to republican senators who were up for re-election, as well as for the election of current president, Donald Trump. When looking at these statistics on the actions of the DeVos family, it is clear that the donations in which Betsy DeVos made had a clear impact on her subsequent nomination. One could even go as far as to say that the money in which her family donated was solely for the purpose of gaining political influence. By donating these large sums of money, DeVos was given a job in which she had little qualifications for, taking the job away from another person, who might have truly cared about the future of America’s education system, not just her own political gain.
The increase in the influence of political superPACs is a clear danger to democracy and an impending warning of the oligarchy that has been a parasite to American ideals of democracy. The only way in which these political action committees can be controlled, is to break them up just as the Sherman Antitrust Act broke up monopolies, through legislation and supreme court intervention. If these threats to democracy are not controlled, The United States will slip further and further into a state of aristocracy where the people are not in control of their own country. This violates every principle in which the constitution was supposedly based upon and revokes the faith of the American people in their government.