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 March 05, 2015 18:48 GMT

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of people seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to the highest level since May, though the level of applications remains at a level consistent with steady hiring.

The Labor Department says weekly applications rose 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 320,000. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, increased 10,250 to 304,750, a six-week high.

The number of applications tends to reflect the pace of U.S. layoffs. The four-week average has remained near or below 300,000 since September, a historically low level that typically signals healthy job gains.

There are some signs that heavy snow and unseasonably cold weather have played a role in increasing the number of layoffs. Several states said two weeks ago that applications had risen because of bad weather.

PRODUCTIVITY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. worker productivity was even weaker than first thought from October through December while labor costs rose at a faster rate.

The Commerce Department says that productivity declined at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter, weaker than the 1.8 percent drop that was estimated a month ago. Labor costs rose at a 4.1 percent rate, faster than the 2.7 percent increase first estimated.

Weaker productivity and higher labor costs could spell inflation troubles for the economy. But analysts say that the changes in the fourth quarter are temporary and not an indication that inflation is about to be a problem.

FACTORY ORDERS

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Orders to U.S. factories fell again in January but a key investment category showed a gain.

The Commerce Department says orders to factories edged down 0.2 percent in January following declines of 3.5 percent in December and 1.7 percent in November.

In an encouraging sign, orders in a category viewed as a proxy for business investment showed an increase of 0.5 percent in January following declines of 0.5 percent in both December and November.

MORTGAGE RATES

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Average long-term mortgage rates have fallen for the first time in four weeks and remain near historic lows reached in May 2013.

Mortgage giant Freddie Mac says the national average for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.75 percent from 3.80 percent last week.

The rate for a 15-year mortgage, popular with homeowners who refinance, fell to 3.03 percent from 3.07 percent last week.

A year ago, the average 30-year mortgage stood at 4.28 percent and the 15-year mortgage at 3.32 percent. Mortgage rates have remained low even though the Federal Reserve in October ended its monthly bond purchases, which were meant to hold down long-term rates.

EXXON MOBIL-SETTLEMENT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) -- New Jersey has announced a settlement with Exxon Mobil that it says is the largest environmental settlement in state history, even though it is far less than the state initially sought.

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a statement Thursday the $225 million settlement over refinery sites in Linden and Bayonne is separate from Exxon Mobil's obligation to clean up the sites.

The settlement has been criticized by Democratic lawmakers who note that the state initially sought $8.9 billion in damages. A judge found the company liable but no damage amount had been determined.

Last month the two sides told the judge to delay his ruling because a settlement was imminent.

The case was brought in 2004 and charged that Exxon's petroleum refining plants contaminated the land and water.

OFFSHORE DRILLING-SEISMIC

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Marine scientists are raising concerns about the Obama administration's decision to move ahead on use of seismic air guns in the Atlantic Ocean for oil and gas exploration.

Seventy-five scientists from around the globe on Thursday sent a letter to President Barack Obama saying the use of the guns, which create canonlike air blasts underwater, represents a "significant threat to marine life throughout the region."

The air blasts fire every 10-12 seconds for weeks or months at a time, which can harm marine mammals that rely on hearing to survive.

Nine permits are before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which must also be approved by NOAA Fisheries before being finalized.

The government says no seismic applications will be approved without measures meant to mitigate harm to marine life.

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