Monday, October 4, 2010

Attack Ads By 501(c)4 “Super PACS” Cause Culture Shock

Washington, D.C. - Suspend your sense of disbelief and imagine, for a moment, a small group of men clad in power suits on the front steps of a Capitol Hill townhouse.

Perhaps it will help you swallow what follows, with all its satirical implications and resemblance to a zany scene from a Mel Brooks movie, if you know that it all really, really happened.

One of the men, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is peeking through the mail slot – he recalls that it was extra big – and begins to shout for anyone within the sound of his voice to answer his knock at the door.

He could sense some movement inside, but the occupants were actually hiding out, waiting for him to go away.

Finally, an administrative assistant comes to investigate the commotion, and Representative Peter DeFazio, (OR-Dem) of the 4th District, learns that he is the assistant to Jason Miller, a paid Republican consultant and the treasurer of Concerned Taxpayers of America.

Mr. DeFazio, accompanied by a group of “Washington Post” reporters, made his visit to the address to learn just who is behind Concerned Taxpayers of America and just who had been paying for a televised attack ad airing in his home district that characterized him as a tax and spend liberal and a puppet of Obama-Pelosi machine politics, the kind that are killing jobs and driving America deeper and deeper into debt, etc.

Why all the histrionics?

It was the only way available to Mr. DeFazio if he hoped to learn the identity of his detractors. His opponent, Republican candidate Art Robinson, is certainly asking no questions. Queried by reporters, he responded by saying “I haven't been trying to find out, because I think that's the legal position I'm supposed to take.”

Still, no one knows if Concerned Taxpayers of America is really a group of people who make up a Political Action Committee that has elected to identify itself as a civic organization that from time to time engages in electioneering on behalf of one candidate for political office over another, or if it's really just a funding arm of the G.O.P.

Under the holding of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, it doesn't really matter, anyway. A super-Pac with 501(4)c status may electioneer all its members may care to and suffer no consequences under the U.S. Tax Code or the Federal Election Code.

Furthermore, it's no one's business but the directors of the PAC just who is a member and from where the money may have been obtained.

The only rule that applies is that the candidate who benefits may not be given any campaign funds or have any direct input in the message of their political advertising.

Though super-Pacs from both sides of the aisle are doing attack ads during the last month before election day, experts contend that the effort is rather “lopsided” on the part of the G.O.P.

Had the DISCLOSE Act passed both houses of Congress, the information would have been a matter of public record. However, that particular measure got bogged down in a Senate filibuster and failed in this session of Congress.

The Citizens United case changed everything, as it were.

The Supreme Court held that to limit the electioneering capacity of a corporation, be it commercial, non-profit or not-for-profit, is to limit free speech. Corporations have all the privileges of a human being, with the exception of a graceful death, under a hallowed old Supreme Court holding. Corporations only die when they run out of money, but then, of course, a federal bankruptcy trustee helps them become born again through reorganization and the adoption of a government-supervised plan to satisfy the demands of their creditors.

Ergo, under the terms of The First Amendment, “Congress shall make no law...” abridging the right of corporations to vent their political spleen on politicians they think have failed in their mission.

Instead of relying on narration spoken in ominous tones and unflattering pictures of President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democratic attack ads often focus on their Republican target's record of trying to “privatize” Social Security, and the like.

Here are two examples, Republican and Democratic.

In Ohio, a Republican super Pac named Americans For Job Security went after Democratic Rep. Zack Space for supporting Pelosi and her “job-killing energy taxes and for her wasteful stimulus.”

According to the ad, “...And we still lost 2.5 million jobs.” Knowledgeable experts say that the allegation is only half true, particulary Space's record on voting for an increase in the debt ceiling.

Wisconsin Democrat Rep. Steve Kagen claimed that “politician Reid Ribble wants to phase out Social Security, forcing Wisconsin seniors to fend for themselves.”

First of all, Mr. Ribble is not a career politician; he has never run for office before this race. Furthermore, his remarks regarding Social Security are taken out of context and twisted.

And the beat goes on, the half-truths resounding amongst the whole cloth fibs passed off as factoids in miserable harmony with reality.

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