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Superpacs: Stop Freaking Out
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8/24/2011 5:00:58 PM
Posted: 5 years ago
I was hoping to clear something up for people
Ever since citizens united court case, general hell-raisers (usually liberals) have taken up arms against "Superpacs."
"Superpac" is a translation for "527 groups given legal recognition."
The key term is "independent expenditures." As long as you do not coordinate with someone's campaign, you can spend all the money you want for attack ads and such. The non-profit tax code for these groups lead to the name "527s."
Examples are Swiftboat Veterans for Truth and MoveOn.org
The idea is that anyone financing a political ad is engaging in free speech, but if he says to the campaign "hey, I wanna put up an ad for x, do you mind?" then it is no longer an independent expenditure and must be accounted for legally. You can't donate treasury funds directly to candidates, so corporations had to mainly use 527s or shadow donors.
General treasury funds can be filtered through 537 groups in the exact same manner a "superpac" can.
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is all the official names of groups raising money for candidates. Some PACs engage in both independent expenditures and direct contributions.
It is STILL illegal for corporations to give direct treasury contributions to a candidate.
What Citizens United has done is turned the practice of skirting campaign rules into a norm for campaign rules.
On the surface, it looks like a change. Mainly, what it does is point out the floodgate, not open it.
So why create the term?
It is a completely made up term that politicians use in Post-Citizens United arena.
"Superpac" is a way of saying "oh, this is another independent expenditure PAC, but its one of those new evil ones we can actually see this time."
Some real side effects come from lifting certain campaign contribution limits, but that isn't as earth-shaking as people make a "superpac" out to be.
In sum, Superpacs are the normalization of what was previously considered "sketchy" or borderline illegal campaign financing techniques.