USNews — Thomas Jefferson Street Blog 7/26/2012

Corporations Gone Wild in the Year of the Super PAC

July 26, 2012 RSS Feed Print

What do Marriott, Waffle House, Orlando Magic, New Balance, Omni Hotels, Charles Schwab, Ritz Carlton, Georgia Pacific, Menards, Dixie, Brawny, and Venetian Hotel Las Vegas have in common? .

These companies and their owners have donated millions to Mitt Romney’s super PAC Restore Our Future, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, the Koch brothers’ anti-Barack Obama operations, and other purveyors of attack ads.

According to Think Progress, Bill Marriott has given over $1,000,000; so has Omni’s co-founder Robert Rowling; so has Jim Davis of New Balance; so has John Menard. Charles Schwab has contributed at least $250,000. And, of course, the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson are into the super PACs and 501(c)4’s for tens of millions of dollars.

The list is growing larger—more and more companies putting millions into this year’s political race for president, almost all of it on the Republican side, much of it secret. When the dust settles, hundreds of millions of dollars will have been spent to defeat Barack Obama and the Democrats in the Senate and House. Many believe it will top a billion dollars in this election cycle.

The press and pundits believed that after Citizen’s United few corporations would play seriously in this political space. Boy, were they wrong. If anything, the proliferation of executives and businesses that are writing six-figure checks, even seven and eight-figure checks, is astounding.

What can be done about this run-away train? Not much this election cycle. But we need to move on this soon after November.

At the very least, we should make all donations public. No more secret contributions to political groups and organization that skirt the law. There should be legislation brought up in the Congress repeatedly that requires groups to file political contributions and expenditures when a candidate’s name is mentioned in advertising. Make the Republicans vote on this over and over until it is passed. With electronic filing there is no reason that transparency should not be the norm and our process should not be open and honest.

Second, many of these organizations have been given tax-exempt status by the government. If they are given such status they should be investigated if they are engaging in political campaigns. They should be forced to become political organizations or stop hiding their donors under their tax-exempt status.

Finally, we should stop the sham that these groups are independent from the campaigns. There are more often than not interlocking directorates with the same band of consultants, advisers, spokespeople, operatives, contributors, friends, colleagues, associates—for all practical purposes they are one and the same, joined at the hip.

All this adds to the public’s cynicism about politics and campaigns. The sooner we deal with it the better.