Super PACs are, of course, the political groups that were set up after the Supreme Court’s landmark free speech decision in Citizens United: they are able to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money advocating both for and against political candidates, but may not donate to those candidates directly. The Left ostensibly hates them, which did not stop them from using them to raise over 28 million dollars in the 2010 election cycle (44% of total Super PAC fundraising) to the Right’s over 35 million (54%: the other 2% hedged their bets); their general argument is that allowing groups to openly spending money expressing their opinions on candidates is corrosive to American democracy. ‘Openly’ is the key here: Super PACs must generally disclose their donors.
The generally is… the interesting bit.
OpenSecrets will take the reader most of the way there, but not quite (can’t imagine why): you see, there’s a loophole in this system. A nonprofit organization does not have to disclose its donors; so a Super PAC that receives a donation from a nonprofit has effectively received an anonymous donation. OpenSecrets found five Super PACs that received most of their revenue this way: New Power PAC (NPP), ProgressOhio (PO), Environment Colorado Action Fund (ECAF), Protecting America’s Retirees (PAR), and the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund (NRC). All five groups received between 88% and 100% of their total funding from precisely one group per Super PAC: they are fairly obviously being used by their parent groups to hide their donors – in a perfectly legal manner, mind you. Total amount being hid this way? Just over 1.4 million dollars: which is not a bad amount of money to licitly launder.
But here’s the interesting bit: OpenSecrets is not nearly being as apocalyptic about this as one might expect from a pro-transparency group. And why is that? Well, far be it from me to suggest that the Center for Responsive Politics might have a bias, but if you drill down into actual campaign ads done by these five Super PACs, you notice something…
|For D||Against D||For R||Against R||Total||% Dem|
|NAR||$ 757,200||$ –||$340,066||$ –||$1,097,266||69%|
|PAR||$ 157,233||$ –||$ –||$ –||$ 157,233||100%|
|ECAF||$ 143,158||$ –||$ –||$ –||$ 143,158||100%|
|PO||$ –||$ –||$ –||$18,412||$ 18,412||100%|
|NPP||$ 8,017||$ –||$ –||$ 3,827||$ 11,844||100%|
Like the fact that 76% of the money raised in this fashion was used to either try to elect a Democrat, or attack a Republican. The National Association of Realtors was the only one that was bipartisan, and even then it put 69% of its money into Democratic candidates*. In other words, color me shocked that the CRP’s ostensibly nonpartisan website somehow neglected to mention that the Democrats used Citizens United in 2010 to sneak $1.1 million past the watchdogs – or that this was in flagrant disregard of the Democrats’ own pious rhetoric on the matter of transparency…
Moe Lane (crosspost)
PS: For the record, the CRP doesn’t muck about with the data. But its analysis of that data always needs to be checked.