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Iain Anderson

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Super PACs - A Waste of Time?

Posted: 10/11/2012 00:00

Im just back from Washington and a week up close and personal with US politics.

Fo me the US electoral results, at least on a macro, national level, showed a rejection of super PAC politics. More money was spent in this campaign than any other before.

And, with the emergence of the super PAC following the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, many Democrats were extremely concerned that corporation-backed super PACs would enter the electoral arena, flood the airwaves and televisions with anti-Democrat advertisements, and provide the push that Republicans needed to take back both the White House and the Senate.

They need not have worried. The election results appear to discredit such an assertion.

According to the Washington Post, president Obama and Democrats spent and raised $1.08 billion to Mitt Romney and the Republicans $1.13 billion

But, when it came to super PACs, Republicans outraised Democrats nearly three to one, with Republican super PACs raking in $203million to Democrats $75million.

It is important to note here that with the recent Supreme Court rulings, super PACs have FAR less regulations than official campaigns do: For instance, with super PACs, individuals, corporations, and unions are allowed to contribute unlimited amounts of money to the super PAC, whereas they are limited in their contributions to official candidates.

Official campaign ads run by the candidates must say "I am X, and I support this message" whereas super PACs have no such requirement. Because of these reasons, many Democrats believed that republican super PACs would be allowed to flood television and radio with false and sharply negative ads and impact the outcome of the election. While republican super PACs did run FAR more advertisements.

So it appears that their efforts were rather ineffective in swaying the general public, especially in the swing states where they spent the bulk of their money

What does this mean going forward? Super PACs are still in their infant stages, having been created in 2009/2010, but have consolidated an incredible amount of power and influence in the last few years. With this election, do they continue to grow and do their contributions continue to increase?

Or will we see a shying away from super PAC politics and a greater focus on grassroots, get-out-the-vote efforts and more microtargeting? These are issues that will be poured over in the coming months and years.

One thing is for certain, however. In 2012, super PAC politics proved ineffective when faced with a massive Obama turnout/campaign machine that was able to mobilize the base and push huge numbers of supporters to wait in line and vote for the incumbent.

It appears that grassroots efforts and microtargeting, as old school as these electoral methods may appear, trumped the new, emerging brand of super PAC politics.

Good.

 

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