Voters should prepare for huge Super PAC spending in 2014 and beyond

Updated: Friday, March 21, 2014
Voters should prepare for huge Super PAC spending in 2014 and beyond story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - It's a term not even four years old, but one so widely used in our modern lexicon that Wednesday it found its way into the New Merriam-Webster online unabridged dictionary.

The term is 'Super PAC,' the name given to those giant political organizations that raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of the candidates or issues of their choice.

Tonight, in Tom's Corner, Tom Van Howe says if we thought $830 million spent by Super PACs two years ago was a lot, we should brace ourselves for what's coming.

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All of this spending is thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling of four years ago--in a case commonly referred to "Citizens United," that equated spending oodles and oodles of money to free speech.

In an era when people wanted more and more accountability and transparency from their candidates, it was a ruling that virtually threw both out the window.

The ads and commercials paid for by all this money are  not officially part of anyone's campaign. Meaning that whatever messages the PAC wants to spend its millions on cannot be done  in concert with an individual campaign.

Wink, wink.

Its probably just a coincidence that lots of PACs have former campaigners for that particular candidate, or that specific issue, on their staffs--that Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell became a laughing-stock the other day when he posted online two-and-a-half minutes of himself, smiling.

No narration, no message; just a smiling Mitch. Could it conceivably be that a PAC supporting his uphill campaign down in the bluegrass state needed some footage of him? Could it be a thinly disguised move to get around what campaign finance laws we have left.

It's a shell game. And they think we're suckers.

And where do these now-in-the-dictionary Super PACs get their millions of dollars? We don't know. They don't have to tell us. They can remain anonymous.

You know why? To hear them tell it, not only is it good for democracy, it protects donors from fear of retribution.

Fear of retribution? Seriously? These are the same people who continually spout the constitution.

Well, how about the founding fathers who put everything on the line when they signed the Declaration of Independence? They weren't anonymous. They didn't use aliases. They stood up and were counted.

There is one member of the Supreme Court who agrees. Antonin Scalia said one who puts his name on a document is less likely to lie than one who can lie anonymously.

I've said this before, I'll say it again. Who do you think gets the ear of a politician? Us guys, who might throw $25 to $100 at someone's campaign? Or someone who coughs up two hundred grand or more?

Maybe the term Super PAC ought to have at least a secondary definition in Webster's new dictionary; how about something nuanced in reality? Something that gets to the heart of the matter?

How about legalized bribery?

In this corner...I'm Tom Van Howe.

Business News

Last Update on October 30, 2014 07:33 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Labor Department will report today on the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits last week. Economists forecast that weekly applications declined 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000.

Also today, the Commerce Department will release third-quarter gross domestic product figures. Many economists predict that overall growth of the economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, reached a healthy 3 percent annual rate in the July-September quarter, according to a survey by data firm FactSet.

Freddie Mac will report on average mortgage rates for this week. Last week, the average for the 30-year loan slid to 3.92 percent.

There are four major companies that will report earnings today.

Altria Group and Mastercard will report quarterly financial results before the market opens.

Starbucks and LinkedIn Corp. will report quarterly earnings after the closing bell.

EARNS-SAMSUNG ELECTRONICS

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Samsung Electronics Co. says its third-quarter income has plunged 49 percent to the lowest level in nearly three years as its handset business slows down.

Samsung says its net income for the July-September quarter was 4.2 trillion won ($4 billion), a sharp decline from 8.2 trillion won a year earlier. The income was the lowest since 2012 but above market expectations. Analysts polled by Factset expected 3.7 trillion won income.

Sales fell 20 percent to 47.4 trillion won while operating income shrank 60 percent to 4.1 trillion won.

Samsung warned earlier this month that its handset profit declined despite a marginal shipment increase. Analysts said the Galaxy S5 smartphone launched in April did not sell well while many consumers held off upgrading their phones, instead waiting for new iPhones.

CHINA-CREDIT CARDS

BEIJING (AP) -- China's Cabinet says it will ease restrictions on credit card processing in a move that might help to resolve a lengthy dispute with the United States over access for Visa, Mastercard and other foreign competitors.

A Cabinet announcement said "all qualified domestic and overseas enterprises" will be allowed to apply to set up credit card clearing operations. It gave no details of what qualifications would be required for a foreign competitor to be approved.

Beijing's restrictions have given a near-monopoly on credit card processing to a state-owned entity, UnionPay.

The World Trade Organization ruled two years ago the restrictions treated foreign competitors unfairly. The government said it would review the decision but did little to increase market access.

FACEBOOK-WHATSAPP FOUNDERS

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton received 116 million shares of Facebook stock currently worth nearly $9 billion when they sold their mobile messaging service to the social networking leader earlier this month.

The breakdown of the big winners in Facebook Inc.'s $22 billion acquisition emerged Wednesday in a regulatory filing.

Koum, a Ukraine immigrant who was once living on welfare, reaped the biggest jackpot with 76.4 million Facebook shares now worth $5.8 billion. That makes him Facebook's fourth largest stockholder behind company CEO Mark Zuckerberg and two mutual funds, Fidelity Management and Vanguard.

Acton, who worked with Koum when they were both Yahoo Inc. engineers, owns 39.7 million Facebook shares worth $3 billion.

More than 45 other WhatsApp current and former employees also received Facebook stock.

FOR-PROFIT COLLEGES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- For-profit colleges that don't produce graduates capable of paying off their student loans could soon face the wrath of the federal government.

Schools with career-oriented programs that fail to comply with the new rule being announced today by the Obama administration stand to lose access to federal student-aid programs.

To meet these "gainful employment" standards, a program will have to show that the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate doesn't exceed 20 percent of discretionary income, or 8 percent of total earnings.

The Education Department estimates that about 1,400 programs serving 840,000 students won't pass. Nearly all of these programs are offered by for-profit schools.

SUPREME COURT-HEALTH OVERHAUL-SUBSIDIES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court justices have their first chance this week to decide whether they have the appetite for another major fight over President Barack Obama's health care law.

Some of the same players who mounted the first failed effort to kill the law altogether now want the justices to rule that subsidies that help millions of low- and middle-income people afford their premiums under the law are illegal.

The challengers are appealing a unanimous ruling of a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, that upheld Internal Revenue Service regulations that allow health-insurance tax credits under the Affordable Care Act for consumers in all 50 states. The appeal is on the agenda for the justices' private conference on Friday, and word of their action could come as early as Monday.

AIRBAG RECALL

DETROIT (AP) -- The U.S. government's auto safety agency, responding to criticism of its slow response to safety issues, has told the manufacturer of millions of potentially faulty air bags to make replacement parts faster and do more testing to find the cause of the problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent letters Wednesday to Japanese air bag maker Takata Corp. and 10 automakers seeking information in a widening air bag recall that now covers almost 8 million U.S. vehicles.

The vehicles are equipped with Takata air bags that can potentially inflate with too much force, blowing apart metal canisters and sending shards flying at drivers and passengers. Safety advocates say four people have died due to the problem.

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