Two Cheers for Super PACs: Money in Politics is Still Overregulated

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SuperPacsWeb2

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The product of two court decisions, Citizens United and SpeechNow.org v. FEC, Super PAC spending is on course to make 2012 the most expensive presidential election in history. These supercharged political action committees may spend and receive unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and unions to advocate for political candidates, as long as they are independent of the candidates' campaigns. How have Super PACs changed the political landscape? Are they good for democracy?

  • David-Keating web

    For

    David Keating

    President, Center for Competitive Politics

  • Jacob-Sullum-web

    For

    Jacob Sullum

    Senior Editor, Reason Magazine

  • trevor-potter-web

    Against

    Trevor Potter

    President and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center

  • Jonathan-Soros-web

    AGAINST

    Jonathan Soros

    Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute and co-founder of Friends of Democracy

  • Moderator Image

    Moderator

    John Donvan

    Author & Correspondent for ABC News

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David-Keating web

For The Motion

David Keating

President, Center for Competitive Politics

David Keating has a long and distinguished career in nonprofit advocacy.  In addition to his role as Executive Director of Club for Growth, a group dedicated to the promulgation of economic freedom, he has served as Executive Vice President of the National Taxpayers Union and Executive Director of Americans for Fair Taxation, a group that supports the FairTax to replace the income tax. He currently serves as President for the Center for Competitive Politics.

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Jacob-Sullum-web

For The Motion

Jacob Sullum

Senior Editor, Reason Magazine

Jacob Sullum is a Senior Editor at Reason magazine and Reason.com and a nationally syndicated columnist. Sullum's weekly column, distributed by Creators Syndicate, is carried by newspapers across the U.S., including the New York Post and the Chicago Sun-Times. Sullum is the author of two critically-acclaimed books: Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health (1998). In 2004 he received the Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties, and in 2005 he received the Drug Policy Alliance's Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in the Field of Journalism.

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trevor-potter-web

Against The Motion

Trevor Potter

President and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center

Trevor Potter is a lawyer, former Commissioner (1991–1995) and Chairman (1994) of the United States Federal Election Commission.  He is the Founder, President, and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center.  Potter served as General Counsel to the 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns of John McCain.   He is also an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale, where he leads the firm's Political Law practice.  He is also notable for appearing on the television program The Colbert Report, where he discussed political action committees, and the founding and progress of Colbert Super PAC.   Potter explained to Colbert's audience the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision made by the United States Supreme Court that allowed the creation of "Super PACs", and was the lawyer behind the creation and functioning of Stephen Colbert's PAC, "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow."

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Jonathan-Soros-web

Against The Motion

Jonathan Soros

Senior Fellow, Roosevelt Institute and co-founder of Friends of Democracy

Jonathan Soros is Chief Executive Officer of JS Capital Management LLC, a private investment firm. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a think tank based in New York City. Soros is a member of the Next Generation Leadership Board of the Indian School of Business, and holds several board positions affiliated with the Open Society Foundations. Prior to founding JS Capital, Soros worked with Soros Fund Management LLC, serving as its President and Deputy Chairman from 2005 to 2011. Soros has clerked for Judge Stephen F. Williams of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, served as Assistant Director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ mission to Moldova, and co-founded the Fair Trial Initiative, a non-profit that seeks to improve the quality of defense available to defendants facing the death penalty. Soros is a graduate magna cum laude of Harvard Law School and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. He received his BA from Wesleyan University.

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Declared Winner: Against The Motion

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9 comments

  • Comment Link mandingo Tuesday, 23 April 2013 20:09 posted by mandingo

    I know that this comment is late and that this debate is directed towards super PACs, but I believe that the requirement to raise ANY amount of money for election campaigns results in the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans. All presidential candidates should be given equal exposure to the American public at the expense of the American taxpayers. Preference should not be given to candidates who will show loyalty to those with the ability to make large contributions. Considering that I pay taxes for the right to live here and for the right to vote for my leaders, I should not have my options limited to the politicians that can generate more money while the candidates who cannot become marginalized. In other words, ALL candidates should be banned from campaigning and should be provided with equal exposure by the government itself. This is the ONLY way to ensure that all candidates are given a fair chance while competing for the presidential nomination and that all citizens are provided with objective views of each candidate, regardless of geographical location or affluence.

  • Comment Link Kevin Tuesday, 20 November 2012 19:10 posted by Kevin

    Jacob Sullum argues that you need money to get your speech out is a stronger argument for more regulation. Because you need money to put out a message on the airwaves, a candidate backed up with lots of money can buy more airtime. However, in turn that naturally restricts the freedom of speech to those without money. Apparently, if I don't have a billion dollars, my freedom of speech is less important.

    The argument that one man with was able to get $10 million from five people to unseat an incumbent president in a primary is exactly why campaign finance regulation is needed.

    The argument that campaign money doesn't corrupt is ridiculous. There's so much history of elected officials repaying and rewarding those who financed them. It would put the individual and the poor at a political disadvantage. I find the "For" argument preposterous.

  • Comment Link Tom Friday, 16 November 2012 21:01 posted by Tom

    David Keating argues that "regulation can't be done because it is written by those who hold office." He, I am sure unwittingly, just made one of the most powerful points for introducing and enforcing "term limits." It is "term limits" that will be the most influential change we can make, that will attract those who want to serve their country as opposed to those who want power and financial gain.

  • Comment Link Tom Friday, 16 November 2012 20:45 posted by Tom

    This is a ludicrous debate. Let's put this in laymen terms in a phrase that we have heard before "money corrupts" plain and simple. And lets apply a little common sense here. Money is not speech, however, money buys speech, i.e. airtime. Corporations are in the best position to take advantage of the "Citizens United" ruling. They are already organized, structured and have the resources to buy the airtime to favor certain candidates to be elected, that, in turn, work with ALEC to write legislature that favors big corporations, i.e. a town can't stop a Walmart from coming in because it is discrimination. If a town doesn't want a Walmart, it shouldn't be forced down their throat. The rights of a a citizen out weigh the wants of a corporation. And just imagine the quality of campaigning, by all parties involved, if every party were allowed the same amount of air time to get their message out. We virtually eliminate "mud slinging" and keep candidates focused on the message. Plain and simple, corporations are not people, you and I are individuals. This is an insult to human intelligence.

  • Comment Link Jim Young Friday, 16 November 2012 10:28 posted by Jim Young

    David Keating's closing argument statement that legislators write the laws (implying free from coercion or undue influence) seems to ignore the ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) back door actions they keep out of the limelight.

    We somewhat effectively regulate sausage factories, let's simplify but provide more regulation of the political sausage factory.

    Full and fast disclosure of donors, and actual enforcement is most important. Legal limits on spending are problematic, but may be practically mitigated by disclosure. It seems ALEC types want to cripple union collection and spending, claiming not all members have a choice, spending while leaving corporate spending wide open with maximum secrecy of political spending using money from nearly every customer, employee, shareholder, and even unwilling shareholders in private or public pension funds like CalPERS. The least we can demand is that they disclose it.

    We hope to see Trevor Potter at the UCLA School of Law meeting this Saturday

  • Comment Link Ariane Thursday, 01 November 2012 10:40 posted by Ariane

    Right on about the Christian coalition. They need to realize that, politically, religious preference doesn't mean near as much as which direction a candidate's moral compass is pointing. In this election, as in the last election, the Mormon compass and the Evangelical compass are both pointed in the same direction. Both groups basically stand for the same stuff . The fact that the two doctrines clash does not matter. Romney has pretty much the same values as Evangelicals do.

  • Comment Link Baja Saturday, 20 October 2012 20:28 posted by Baja

    Probably not as much as they would like to think because pelope who watch and are plugged into the political situation more likely have already decided for whom they will vote and are only looking for support of their decision. Those who are not so politically up to date seem more prone to get their information (or misinformation) from friends or late night comedians.

  • Comment Link Kevin Will Monday, 08 October 2012 18:40 posted by Kevin Will

    In my opinion, this is the most impactful and important topic affecting our democracy today. I am grateful you chose to debate it. However, I would like to suggest a topic that may seem similar but is actually quite different and more to the point I would like to see debated.

    Do 100% publicly financed and shortened electoral campaigns save tax dollars and make our republic more representative of its people.

  • Comment Link Mubeen Wednesday, 03 October 2012 13:56 posted by Mubeen

    Not anywhere near what the neortwk media has through their decisions on just who they are going to cover on any day, and how long the sound-bite will be at that moment. I heard an hour-long, very comprehensive political analysis of both the last debate and the so-called bail-out. It was on my local PBS channel today, when sports was on ALL the other commercial channels. Tells you just what the media really wants you to pay attention to.

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