Thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. FEC, individuals, corporations, non-profits, or pretty much any group of people can form a Super Political Action Committee (PAC) to support a particular candidate. Taken a step further than a regular PAC, a Super PAC can raise unlimited funds to back a person or a cause.
Before that ruling, PACs were extremely limited in how they could contribute to campaigns, and there were lots of rules about running ads leading up to elections. For example, private groups couldn’t run negative attack ads within 60 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. But now ... well now the gloves can come off and free speech reigns in an election cycle unlike any we’ve seen in history.
Access to information is easier than ever before, as is the ability to spread that information across the airwaves, cable feeds, and through Wi-Fi hot spots. Nothing seems to be secret anymore, and skeletons long thought buried can come back and spread like wildfire across the Internet and into the mainstream media.
Here’s where the rules regarding these Super PACs get interesting: They can’t have any direct involvement with the campaign itself. So when Newt Gingrich accuses the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future of lying about his positions on issues like abortion, Governor Romney can just calmly say that he’s not involved in those negative attack ads.
Then Newt Gingrich can stamp his foot and say, “Governor, I wish you would calmly and directly state it is your former staff running the PAC ... It is your millionaire friends giving to the PAC. And you know some of the ads aren't true. Just say that. It's straightforward."
To which Romney can then reply, “Well, of course it's former staff of mine. And of course they're people who support me. They wouldn't be putting money into a PAC that supports me if they weren't people who support me."
So far, it looks like Mitt Romney is winning the Super PAC war of the GOP Presidential Primary 2012. While the campaign is not directly involved with the attack ads, they have devastated the lead Gingrich had in Iowa just four weeks ago down to a fourth place finish.
We’ve still got a long way to go to the Republican National Convention where our candidate will be officially chosen to face off against President Obama in the general election. Maybe if Newt hadn’t been so hard to work with that his entire staff up and quit a few months ago, he’d have someone running an effective Super PAC on his behalf.
This post is part of a weekly conversation with our 5 Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. Read the original question and find links to all their responses here: Who Do Negative Campaign Ads Hurt Most?
Image via MittRomney/YouTube