topic
Before We Even Vote...

Introduced: March 14 2012

Electing our President and Vice President consumes huge amounts of time, energy, money and attention. Does it give us the results we need?


 


Between the debates, primaries, conventions, bus tours, fund-raisers, PACS and Super-PACS, advertising, and electronic campaigns, does our election process provide us with the best leaders for today’s world? If it was up to you, what parts of the process would you eliminate, change or keep?



Dialogue on Before We Even Vote...
400:

Note from IWD: This comment was submitted to the dialogue "Is it Mitt Romney's business?," http://www.iwdialogue.com/current-topic but since it is relevant to our dialogue on the election process and Super Pacs, it is being included here as well.

 

I am coming to the opinion that the issue of Mr. Romney's tax returns is a diversion for individuals to ponder while the actual election is taken out of their hands. It makes no difference for us to care about Mr. Romney's tax returns when our own Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for special interests (hyperwealthy citizens and corporations as well as foreign ones), through its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, to spend without limit on our elections. The organizations that are created to do just this are called "SuperPACs". Mr. Obama has a superpac called Priorities USA Action, which has raised a little more than $10.5 million. On the other hand, Karl Rove (of the former Bush administration) and Ed Gillespie (former RNC chair) have created other superpacs. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, a sister Spac with a status that allows all contributors to remain anonymous.

 

As a head of these organizations, Rove has set up, essentially a shadow political party where he makes the decisions where the money goes and answers to no one. American Crossroads has raised $200 million in addition to the pro-Romney Superpac, Restore Our Future. By the end of May, 2012, Rove's superpac network along with the Koch brothers (multi-billionaire brothers responsible for funding much of the Tea Party movement who are now on board with Rove) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a new goal of 1 billion. This will be in addition to Romney Campaign money and RNC money which is expected to be $800 million. For perspective, John McCain's entire presidential budget was $370 million.

 

April 5, Ed Gillespie left American Crossroads and joined the Romney campaign as senior advisor, enabling Rove strategic oversight of Romney's campaign. Rove's old friend from the Reagan-Bush campaign, Beth Myers, was Romney's 2008 campaign manager and his chief of staff when he was governor. On April 16, Romney announced that Myers would be in charge of his selection process for the vice president position. Who cares about Romney's taxes when Rove, a quintessential game player, has his sights on capturing the White House, keeping the House of Representatives and winning back the Senate. Given that Rove can be credited with being the brain behind one of the worst presidents in US history (starting two horribly costly wars and leaving the country near economic collapse), there is substantial doubt whether he cares about who he gets elected as long as Rove wins the game. Right now, he has become the king of superpacs and, as the man controlling the money, has recreated himself as the vortex of power for the foreseeable future without popular support or oversight.

 

This is what we should watch and write our representatives and senators to change. They can overturn Citizens United with legislation. The power to elect should stay in the hands of the people who make up the country. That is the very foundation of America. If Mitt Romney gets elected to the presidency, the people of America should elect him, not the special interest groups and not a game-player who just wants to see if he can do it. You can read more about this in the August Issue of Vanity Fair (by Carl Unger) http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/09/karl-rove-gop-craig-unger and in the August Issue of Esquire (by Charles Pierce) http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/citizens-united-2012-10250917 Please be involved.

134:

I absolutely agree with the people who sent in comments about PACs. Of course, the Supreme Court decision is what set this in motion -- by freeing unions and businesses to participate in this mega-funding as well as the "independent" groups -- and then the Federal Election Commission made it even worse by defining "independent" so narrowly. Many of the super PACS are run by a candidate's former staff members and so far, it has even been allowed for a candidate to appear at a super PAC's fund-raising event. Doesn't seem very "independent"!

251:

I have to add my voice to those who are seriously concerned about the impact Super-PACS have on the election process. People have found ways around all the rules that supposedly limit these groups. I read that although Super-PACS are supposed to identify their donors, what some individuals have done is set up a shell corporation just for the time the donation is being made and then the coroporation is disbanded. Another way of getting around this rule is to set up and then give a donation from a 501(c)(4), which is supposed to be using funds for "social welfare" causes. These types of organizations are not required to list their donors, so they are off the hook.

097:

As member #244 pointed out last week, if you don't like negative political ads, than you can blame much of it on Super-PACs. And one reason not to like them is because all that trash-talking can only make the polarization between the parties more extreme.

033:

I feel a little like a voice in the wilderness because I know PACS and Super-PACs are wildly unpopular these days. But I think it was only natural that, in this highly competitive political environment, Republicans would need to find some way to support their candidates in light of Barack Obama's huge fund-raising advantage in 2008. And it does seem that every candidate is able to find wealthy individuals who support their candidacy.

012:

Super-PACS are the problem. The Supreme Court ruling that PACs are not limited in their campaign contributions set us up to have large donors hijack the process.

136:

In my opinion, the debates are great – and I think having many of them just improves the process. I think they had a big impact on the Republican race, some of the early candidates couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny and it was the debates that lowered people’s opinions of them. I’ll be eagerly tuning in to the debates between the two Presidential candidates when that time arrives.

170:

The best things about the debates is that the candidates have to look each other in the eye – and they have witnesses to the things they say.

161:

I’m looking forward to the conventions. Since I’m an independent voter, I usually come away from both conventions feeling enthused about that party (and then have to decide based on other factors). If Romney is unable to secure enough delegates, this will be the first open convention in a long, long time. And that sets a different tone. Some people, including John McCain, say that a long and unsettled primary season is bad for the party (because the unfavorable ratings go up) but I think it’s healthy.



Note from IWD: The last open convention was 36 years ago, when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan competed for the nomination.

339:

The caucus system of voting must be eliminated. It is exclusionary, inaccurate, and it would seem that it could possibly be a violation of civil rights of the disabled and others who cannot get to the caucus sites at the exact time and place...not there...can't vote... The rule of caucus.
It also provides a very loose environment that breeds intimidation tactics that voters may have to endure as they approach the voting venue. I have seen this in action. I come from a primary state with strict voting rules. When working a campaign in another state which was a caucus state, I was shocked at the extreme differences between my state and the caucus state.
This country needs a uniform voting procedure that provides equal access to all United States Citizens in order to allow them to exercise their right to vote.
As person who places great value on equal opportunity with regard to civil rights, I know that this method of voting, while tradition to some states, is antiquated and absolutely must change.

335:

Overall, I think the process is too long and has evolved to require way too much money. The nomination process in particular now has candidates kicking off their campaigns well over a year before their party's convention. In each state, the candidates (and their Super PACS) are spending millions of dollars, sometimes tens of millions. Imagine how those dollars could be spent to fund programs, drive change, and solve the actual problems the candidates talk about when they stand in front of a microphone.

076:

You can't talk about the election process and the SuperPACS without pointing out that Obama was totally opposed to them...until recently when, considering the realities of being re-elected, he decided he needed them to "level the playing field."

321:

Super PACS are definitely something I would remove from the election process as I think the money they spend has dominated the Republican race. They don’t donate money directly to a candidate’s campaign – and supposedly can’t work directly with the campaign staff – but how blind can we be? I read that there are more than 325 Super PACS. So far, they’ve raised over $90 million and spent more than $45 million. So, whatever they call their PAC or SuperPAC – "Restore our Future" (Romney) or "Winning Our Future" (Gingrich) – they should be called "Buying our Future." It seems like in 2008, the new development was the blossoming of small donations via the web – this year, the power is being sucked back into a few very, very wealthy people. The same article in Forbes said that of the $181 million raised by Super PACS in the past two years, about half of the total came from no more than 200 people. Isn’t that a sure way to surrender the political system to a very few people? 



Note from IWD: Basic Facts About PACS: The Supreme Court has been involved in some way with the definition and development of PACs for more than 30 years.


 1974: After the Watergate scandal, Congress rewrote laws about spending in federal elections. The laws limited the size of individual contributions to candidates, limited “independent” expenditures, re-stated prohibitions on political contributions by corporations and labor unions, and required persons engaged in election activities to register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and disclose funding sources.


1976: The Supreme Court decided that the government could limit the size of individual contributions to candidates, but not “independent” contributions. This was based on the assumption that “independent” contributions would not corrupt a candidate.


1989: The Court held that corporations were different than individuals and had legal advantages that gave them unfair influence in the political marketplace; therefore, corporations were prohibited from donating their funds to election campaigns.


2003: Sandra Day O’Connor was the fifth vote in upholding the Court’s decision to ban corporations from paying for campaign ads close to an election.


2009: With Justice Alioto having replaced Justice O’Connor, the Court overturned the previous ruling and held that corporations, like individuals have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited corporate funds in election activities, including advertising. This decision – known as “Citizens United” – declared that unlimited independent expenditures do not corrupt candidates and that there is no difference between individuals and corporations regarding the First Amendment.


At that time, political committees were limited to accepting no more than $5,000 from any one person per year to pay for independent expenditures. But a court ruling in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, held that if they weren’t corrupting, there was no basis on which to impose limitations on expenditures.


2010: The FEC announced it would accept registrations of a new kind of committee – quickly nicknamed “Super PAC” – that could accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. This spurred activity through the political realm, which led to some blurry lines. The requirement of disclosure is blurred by such techniques as contributions from shell corporations or from 501©4 or ©6 corporations who do not disclose their expenditures. The requirement of being “totally independent of any candidate” is now covered with shades of gray because of the development of “candidate” super PACs

244:

I read in the Seattle Times that one reason there are so many negative ads is because the laws the prevent a PAC from coordinating an ad with a candidate’s campaign team means they can’t really feature that candidate. The statistics this article quoted was that PACs have run more ads than the campaigns themselves and that 72% of the money goes to negative ads.

187:

I’d like to see less negative advertising. Maybe it catches your attention the first time, but then to hear it over and over – it’s about the only thing I like less than having a store where I shopped once call me repeatedly to tell me their new inventory is in. The repetition really grates. Probably the “mother” of all negative ads was the campaign against John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, where the ad called into question his military service and his patriotism

239:

When I read this question, my first response was to answer that the negative ads should go. But then I read something pretty funny by Paul Begala – and he confessed to actually liking negative ads and finding them much more interesting than positive ads. He explored our penchant for all things negative a little more by quoting a scientist from Emory University who says that when we were evolving, identifying negative cues could save our lives, but positive cues didn’t have the same effect.

332:

I think the primary process is too long. It's become more of a beauty pageant rather than an effective way to select and evaluate a candidate.

331:

I think the current primary process is the right one. It's important for each state (and the people in those states) to have their say in the process and who gets the nomination. While it seems to drag on a little, that process takes time and helps to ultimately vet the candidate for the general election. That said, I think we're seeing the negative impact of Super PACs. All that money plowed into negative ads is not productive. The candidates need to focus on the issues. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the general election.

030:

As it is, we are voting for the best performer...the one with the cleverest writers, researchers...you get it.
I would like to vote for the person - not the performance

097:

On the topic of the election process, whatever became of Americans Elect, proposed by Tom Friedman as a better way to choose a President?



Note from IWD: We’d welcome any information or thoughts from Members. In the meantime, according to Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor, The American Prospect, Americans Elect has already raised $22 million, and has qualified its yet-to-be named candidate for the ballot in 14 states including California. With some 6,000 paid and volunteer canvassers, they hope to gain a ballot slot in every state. Later this spring, its 350,000 members will vote via the Internet for their choice of nominee.


Also, an IWD Member has nominated for Who’s Worth Watching, a person named David Walker, allegedly a leading contender to be nominated for President by Citizens Elect. Other drafted candidates include Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  http://www.americanselect.org/

400:

Note from IWD: This comment was submitted to the dialogue "Is it Mitt Romney's business?," http://www.iwdialogue.com/current-topic but since it is relevant to our dialogue on the election process and Super Pacs, it is being included here as well.

 

I am coming to the opinion that the issue of Mr. Romney's tax returns is a diversion for individuals to ponder while the actual election is taken out of their hands. It makes no difference for us to care about Mr. Romney's tax returns when our own Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for special interests (hyperwealthy citizens and corporations as well as foreign ones), through its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, to spend without limit on our elections. The organizations that are created to do just this are called "SuperPACs". Mr. Obama has a superpac called Priorities USA Action, which has raised a little more than $10.5 million. On the other hand, Karl Rove (of the former Bush administration) and Ed Gillespie (former RNC chair) have created other superpacs. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, a sister Spac with a status that allows all contributors to remain anonymous.

 

As a head of these organizations, Rove has set up, essentially a shadow political party where he makes the decisions where the money goes and answers to no one. American Crossroads has raised $200 million in addition to the pro-Romney Superpac, Restore Our Future. By the end of May, 2012, Rove's superpac network along with the Koch brothers (multi-billionaire brothers responsible for funding much of the Tea Party movement who are now on board with Rove) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a new goal of 1 billion. This will be in addition to Romney Campaign money and RNC money which is expected to be $800 million. For perspective, John McCain's entire presidential budget was $370 million.

 

April 5, Ed Gillespie left American Crossroads and joined the Romney campaign as senior advisor, enabling Rove strategic oversight of Romney's campaign. Rove's old friend from the Reagan-Bush campaign, Beth Myers, was Romney's 2008 campaign manager and his chief of staff when he was governor. On April 16, Romney announced that Myers would be in charge of his selection process for the vice president position. Who cares about Romney's taxes when Rove, a quintessential game player, has his sights on capturing the White House, keeping the House of Representatives and winning back the Senate. Given that Rove can be credited with being the brain behind one of the worst presidents in US history (starting two horribly costly wars and leaving the country near economic collapse), there is substantial doubt whether he cares about who he gets elected as long as Rove wins the game. Right now, he has become the king of superpacs and, as the man controlling the money, has recreated himself as the vortex of power for the foreseeable future without popular support or oversight.

 

This is what we should watch and write our representatives and senators to change. They can overturn Citizens United with legislation. The power to elect should stay in the hands of the people who make up the country. That is the very foundation of America. If Mitt Romney gets elected to the presidency, the people of America should elect him, not the special interest groups and not a game-player who just wants to see if he can do it. You can read more about this in the August Issue of Vanity Fair (by Carl Unger) http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/09/karl-rove-gop-craig-unger and in the August Issue of Esquire (by Charles Pierce) http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/citizens-united-2012-10250917 Please be involved.

134:

I absolutely agree with the people who sent in comments about PACs. Of course, the Supreme Court decision is what set this in motion -- by freeing unions and businesses to participate in this mega-funding as well as the "independent" groups -- and then the Federal Election Commission made it even worse by defining "independent" so narrowly. Many of the super PACS are run by a candidate's former staff members and so far, it has even been allowed for a candidate to appear at a super PAC's fund-raising event. Doesn't seem very "independent"!

251:

I have to add my voice to those who are seriously concerned about the impact Super-PACS have on the election process. People have found ways around all the rules that supposedly limit these groups. I read that although Super-PACS are supposed to identify their donors, what some individuals have done is set up a shell corporation just for the time the donation is being made and then the coroporation is disbanded. Another way of getting around this rule is to set up and then give a donation from a 501(c)(4), which is supposed to be using funds for "social welfare" causes. These types of organizations are not required to list their donors, so they are off the hook.

097:

As member #244 pointed out last week, if you don't like negative political ads, than you can blame much of it on Super-PACs. And one reason not to like them is because all that trash-talking can only make the polarization between the parties more extreme.

033:

I feel a little like a voice in the wilderness because I know PACS and Super-PACs are wildly unpopular these days. But I think it was only natural that, in this highly competitive political environment, Republicans would need to find some way to support their candidates in light of Barack Obama's huge fund-raising advantage in 2008. And it does seem that every candidate is able to find wealthy individuals who support their candidacy.

012:

Super-PACS are the problem. The Supreme Court ruling that PACs are not limited in their campaign contributions set us up to have large donors hijack the process.

136:

In my opinion, the debates are great – and I think having many of them just improves the process. I think they had a big impact on the Republican race, some of the early candidates couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny and it was the debates that lowered people’s opinions of them. I’ll be eagerly tuning in to the debates between the two Presidential candidates when that time arrives.

170:

The best things about the debates is that the candidates have to look each other in the eye – and they have witnesses to the things they say.

161:

I’m looking forward to the conventions. Since I’m an independent voter, I usually come away from both conventions feeling enthused about that party (and then have to decide based on other factors). If Romney is unable to secure enough delegates, this will be the first open convention in a long, long time. And that sets a different tone. Some people, including John McCain, say that a long and unsettled primary season is bad for the party (because the unfavorable ratings go up) but I think it’s healthy.



Note from IWD: The last open convention was 36 years ago, when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan competed for the nomination.

339:

The caucus system of voting must be eliminated. It is exclusionary, inaccurate, and it would seem that it could possibly be a violation of civil rights of the disabled and others who cannot get to the caucus sites at the exact time and place...not there...can't vote... The rule of caucus.
It also provides a very loose environment that breeds intimidation tactics that voters may have to endure as they approach the voting venue. I have seen this in action. I come from a primary state with strict voting rules. When working a campaign in another state which was a caucus state, I was shocked at the extreme differences between my state and the caucus state.
This country needs a uniform voting procedure that provides equal access to all United States Citizens in order to allow them to exercise their right to vote.
As person who places great value on equal opportunity with regard to civil rights, I know that this method of voting, while tradition to some states, is antiquated and absolutely must change.

335:

Overall, I think the process is too long and has evolved to require way too much money. The nomination process in particular now has candidates kicking off their campaigns well over a year before their party's convention. In each state, the candidates (and their Super PACS) are spending millions of dollars, sometimes tens of millions. Imagine how those dollars could be spent to fund programs, drive change, and solve the actual problems the candidates talk about when they stand in front of a microphone.

076:

You can't talk about the election process and the SuperPACS without pointing out that Obama was totally opposed to them...until recently when, considering the realities of being re-elected, he decided he needed them to "level the playing field."

321:

Super PACS are definitely something I would remove from the election process as I think the money they spend has dominated the Republican race. They don’t donate money directly to a candidate’s campaign – and supposedly can’t work directly with the campaign staff – but how blind can we be? I read that there are more than 325 Super PACS. So far, they’ve raised over $90 million and spent more than $45 million. So, whatever they call their PAC or SuperPAC – "Restore our Future" (Romney) or "Winning Our Future" (Gingrich) – they should be called "Buying our Future." It seems like in 2008, the new development was the blossoming of small donations via the web – this year, the power is being sucked back into a few very, very wealthy people. The same article in Forbes said that of the $181 million raised by Super PACS in the past two years, about half of the total came from no more than 200 people. Isn’t that a sure way to surrender the political system to a very few people? 



Note from IWD: Basic Facts About PACS: The Supreme Court has been involved in some way with the definition and development of PACs for more than 30 years.


 1974: After the Watergate scandal, Congress rewrote laws about spending in federal elections. The laws limited the size of individual contributions to candidates, limited “independent” expenditures, re-stated prohibitions on political contributions by corporations and labor unions, and required persons engaged in election activities to register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and disclose funding sources.


1976: The Supreme Court decided that the government could limit the size of individual contributions to candidates, but not “independent” contributions. This was based on the assumption that “independent” contributions would not corrupt a candidate.


1989: The Court held that corporations were different than individuals and had legal advantages that gave them unfair influence in the political marketplace; therefore, corporations were prohibited from donating their funds to election campaigns.


2003: Sandra Day O’Connor was the fifth vote in upholding the Court’s decision to ban corporations from paying for campaign ads close to an election.


2009: With Justice Alioto having replaced Justice O’Connor, the Court overturned the previous ruling and held that corporations, like individuals have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited corporate funds in election activities, including advertising. This decision – known as “Citizens United” – declared that unlimited independent expenditures do not corrupt candidates and that there is no difference between individuals and corporations regarding the First Amendment.


At that time, political committees were limited to accepting no more than $5,000 from any one person per year to pay for independent expenditures. But a court ruling in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, held that if they weren’t corrupting, there was no basis on which to impose limitations on expenditures.


2010: The FEC announced it would accept registrations of a new kind of committee – quickly nicknamed “Super PAC” – that could accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. This spurred activity through the political realm, which led to some blurry lines. The requirement of disclosure is blurred by such techniques as contributions from shell corporations or from 501©4 or ©6 corporations who do not disclose their expenditures. The requirement of being “totally independent of any candidate” is now covered with shades of gray because of the development of “candidate” super PACs

244:

I read in the Seattle Times that one reason there are so many negative ads is because the laws the prevent a PAC from coordinating an ad with a candidate’s campaign team means they can’t really feature that candidate. The statistics this article quoted was that PACs have run more ads than the campaigns themselves and that 72% of the money goes to negative ads.

187:

I’d like to see less negative advertising. Maybe it catches your attention the first time, but then to hear it over and over – it’s about the only thing I like less than having a store where I shopped once call me repeatedly to tell me their new inventory is in. The repetition really grates. Probably the “mother” of all negative ads was the campaign against John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, where the ad called into question his military service and his patriotism

239:

When I read this question, my first response was to answer that the negative ads should go. But then I read something pretty funny by Paul Begala – and he confessed to actually liking negative ads and finding them much more interesting than positive ads. He explored our penchant for all things negative a little more by quoting a scientist from Emory University who says that when we were evolving, identifying negative cues could save our lives, but positive cues didn’t have the same effect.

332:

I think the primary process is too long. It's become more of a beauty pageant rather than an effective way to select and evaluate a candidate.

331:

I think the current primary process is the right one. It's important for each state (and the people in those states) to have their say in the process and who gets the nomination. While it seems to drag on a little, that process takes time and helps to ultimately vet the candidate for the general election. That said, I think we're seeing the negative impact of Super PACs. All that money plowed into negative ads is not productive. The candidates need to focus on the issues. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the general election.

030:

As it is, we are voting for the best performer...the one with the cleverest writers, researchers...you get it.
I would like to vote for the person - not the performance

097:

On the topic of the election process, whatever became of Americans Elect, proposed by Tom Friedman as a better way to choose a President?



Note from IWD: We’d welcome any information or thoughts from Members. In the meantime, according to Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor, The American Prospect, Americans Elect has already raised $22 million, and has qualified its yet-to-be named candidate for the ballot in 14 states including California. With some 6,000 paid and volunteer canvassers, they hope to gain a ballot slot in every state. Later this spring, its 350,000 members will vote via the Internet for their choice of nominee.


Also, an IWD Member has nominated for Who’s Worth Watching, a person named David Walker, allegedly a leading contender to be nominated for President by Citizens Elect. Other drafted candidates include Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  http://www.americanselect.org/

097:

On the topic of the election process, whatever became of Americans Elect, proposed by Tom Friedman as a better way to choose a President?



Note from IWD: We’d welcome any information or thoughts from Members. In the meantime, according to Robert Kuttner, co-founder and co-editor, The American Prospect, Americans Elect has already raised $22 million, and has qualified its yet-to-be named candidate for the ballot in 14 states including California. With some 6,000 paid and volunteer canvassers, they hope to gain a ballot slot in every state. Later this spring, its 350,000 members will vote via the Internet for their choice of nominee.


Also, an IWD Member has nominated for Who’s Worth Watching, a person named David Walker, allegedly a leading contender to be nominated for President by Citizens Elect. Other drafted candidates include Ron Paul and Jon Huntsman.  http://www.americanselect.org/

030:

As it is, we are voting for the best performer...the one with the cleverest writers, researchers...you get it.
I would like to vote for the person - not the performance

331:

I think the current primary process is the right one. It's important for each state (and the people in those states) to have their say in the process and who gets the nomination. While it seems to drag on a little, that process takes time and helps to ultimately vet the candidate for the general election. That said, I think we're seeing the negative impact of Super PACs. All that money plowed into negative ads is not productive. The candidates need to focus on the issues. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the general election.

332:

I think the primary process is too long. It's become more of a beauty pageant rather than an effective way to select and evaluate a candidate.

239:

When I read this question, my first response was to answer that the negative ads should go. But then I read something pretty funny by Paul Begala – and he confessed to actually liking negative ads and finding them much more interesting than positive ads. He explored our penchant for all things negative a little more by quoting a scientist from Emory University who says that when we were evolving, identifying negative cues could save our lives, but positive cues didn’t have the same effect.

187:

I’d like to see less negative advertising. Maybe it catches your attention the first time, but then to hear it over and over – it’s about the only thing I like less than having a store where I shopped once call me repeatedly to tell me their new inventory is in. The repetition really grates. Probably the “mother” of all negative ads was the campaign against John Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, where the ad called into question his military service and his patriotism

244:

I read in the Seattle Times that one reason there are so many negative ads is because the laws the prevent a PAC from coordinating an ad with a candidate’s campaign team means they can’t really feature that candidate. The statistics this article quoted was that PACs have run more ads than the campaigns themselves and that 72% of the money goes to negative ads.

321:

Super PACS are definitely something I would remove from the election process as I think the money they spend has dominated the Republican race. They don’t donate money directly to a candidate’s campaign – and supposedly can’t work directly with the campaign staff – but how blind can we be? I read that there are more than 325 Super PACS. So far, they’ve raised over $90 million and spent more than $45 million. So, whatever they call their PAC or SuperPAC – "Restore our Future" (Romney) or "Winning Our Future" (Gingrich) – they should be called "Buying our Future." It seems like in 2008, the new development was the blossoming of small donations via the web – this year, the power is being sucked back into a few very, very wealthy people. The same article in Forbes said that of the $181 million raised by Super PACS in the past two years, about half of the total came from no more than 200 people. Isn’t that a sure way to surrender the political system to a very few people? 



Note from IWD: Basic Facts About PACS: The Supreme Court has been involved in some way with the definition and development of PACs for more than 30 years.


 1974: After the Watergate scandal, Congress rewrote laws about spending in federal elections. The laws limited the size of individual contributions to candidates, limited “independent” expenditures, re-stated prohibitions on political contributions by corporations and labor unions, and required persons engaged in election activities to register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and disclose funding sources.


1976: The Supreme Court decided that the government could limit the size of individual contributions to candidates, but not “independent” contributions. This was based on the assumption that “independent” contributions would not corrupt a candidate.


1989: The Court held that corporations were different than individuals and had legal advantages that gave them unfair influence in the political marketplace; therefore, corporations were prohibited from donating their funds to election campaigns.


2003: Sandra Day O’Connor was the fifth vote in upholding the Court’s decision to ban corporations from paying for campaign ads close to an election.


2009: With Justice Alioto having replaced Justice O’Connor, the Court overturned the previous ruling and held that corporations, like individuals have a First Amendment right to spend unlimited corporate funds in election activities, including advertising. This decision – known as “Citizens United” – declared that unlimited independent expenditures do not corrupt candidates and that there is no difference between individuals and corporations regarding the First Amendment.


At that time, political committees were limited to accepting no more than $5,000 from any one person per year to pay for independent expenditures. But a court ruling in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, held that if they weren’t corrupting, there was no basis on which to impose limitations on expenditures.


2010: The FEC announced it would accept registrations of a new kind of committee – quickly nicknamed “Super PAC” – that could accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. This spurred activity through the political realm, which led to some blurry lines. The requirement of disclosure is blurred by such techniques as contributions from shell corporations or from 501©4 or ©6 corporations who do not disclose their expenditures. The requirement of being “totally independent of any candidate” is now covered with shades of gray because of the development of “candidate” super PACs

076:

You can't talk about the election process and the SuperPACS without pointing out that Obama was totally opposed to them...until recently when, considering the realities of being re-elected, he decided he needed them to "level the playing field."

335:

Overall, I think the process is too long and has evolved to require way too much money. The nomination process in particular now has candidates kicking off their campaigns well over a year before their party's convention. In each state, the candidates (and their Super PACS) are spending millions of dollars, sometimes tens of millions. Imagine how those dollars could be spent to fund programs, drive change, and solve the actual problems the candidates talk about when they stand in front of a microphone.

339:

The caucus system of voting must be eliminated. It is exclusionary, inaccurate, and it would seem that it could possibly be a violation of civil rights of the disabled and others who cannot get to the caucus sites at the exact time and place...not there...can't vote... The rule of caucus.
It also provides a very loose environment that breeds intimidation tactics that voters may have to endure as they approach the voting venue. I have seen this in action. I come from a primary state with strict voting rules. When working a campaign in another state which was a caucus state, I was shocked at the extreme differences between my state and the caucus state.
This country needs a uniform voting procedure that provides equal access to all United States Citizens in order to allow them to exercise their right to vote.
As person who places great value on equal opportunity with regard to civil rights, I know that this method of voting, while tradition to some states, is antiquated and absolutely must change.

161:

I’m looking forward to the conventions. Since I’m an independent voter, I usually come away from both conventions feeling enthused about that party (and then have to decide based on other factors). If Romney is unable to secure enough delegates, this will be the first open convention in a long, long time. And that sets a different tone. Some people, including John McCain, say that a long and unsettled primary season is bad for the party (because the unfavorable ratings go up) but I think it’s healthy.



Note from IWD: The last open convention was 36 years ago, when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan competed for the nomination.

170:

The best things about the debates is that the candidates have to look each other in the eye – and they have witnesses to the things they say.

136:

In my opinion, the debates are great – and I think having many of them just improves the process. I think they had a big impact on the Republican race, some of the early candidates couldn’t stand up to the scrutiny and it was the debates that lowered people’s opinions of them. I’ll be eagerly tuning in to the debates between the two Presidential candidates when that time arrives.

012:

Super-PACS are the problem. The Supreme Court ruling that PACs are not limited in their campaign contributions set us up to have large donors hijack the process.

033:

I feel a little like a voice in the wilderness because I know PACS and Super-PACs are wildly unpopular these days. But I think it was only natural that, in this highly competitive political environment, Republicans would need to find some way to support their candidates in light of Barack Obama's huge fund-raising advantage in 2008. And it does seem that every candidate is able to find wealthy individuals who support their candidacy.

097:

As member #244 pointed out last week, if you don't like negative political ads, than you can blame much of it on Super-PACs. And one reason not to like them is because all that trash-talking can only make the polarization between the parties more extreme.

251:

I have to add my voice to those who are seriously concerned about the impact Super-PACS have on the election process. People have found ways around all the rules that supposedly limit these groups. I read that although Super-PACS are supposed to identify their donors, what some individuals have done is set up a shell corporation just for the time the donation is being made and then the coroporation is disbanded. Another way of getting around this rule is to set up and then give a donation from a 501(c)(4), which is supposed to be using funds for "social welfare" causes. These types of organizations are not required to list their donors, so they are off the hook.

134:

I absolutely agree with the people who sent in comments about PACs. Of course, the Supreme Court decision is what set this in motion -- by freeing unions and businesses to participate in this mega-funding as well as the "independent" groups -- and then the Federal Election Commission made it even worse by defining "independent" so narrowly. Many of the super PACS are run by a candidate's former staff members and so far, it has even been allowed for a candidate to appear at a super PAC's fund-raising event. Doesn't seem very "independent"!

400:

Note from IWD: This comment was submitted to the dialogue "Is it Mitt Romney's business?," http://www.iwdialogue.com/current-topic but since it is relevant to our dialogue on the election process and Super Pacs, it is being included here as well.

 

I am coming to the opinion that the issue of Mr. Romney's tax returns is a diversion for individuals to ponder while the actual election is taken out of their hands. It makes no difference for us to care about Mr. Romney's tax returns when our own Supreme Court has opened the floodgates for special interests (hyperwealthy citizens and corporations as well as foreign ones), through its Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, to spend without limit on our elections. The organizations that are created to do just this are called "SuperPACs". Mr. Obama has a superpac called Priorities USA Action, which has raised a little more than $10.5 million. On the other hand, Karl Rove (of the former Bush administration) and Ed Gillespie (former RNC chair) have created other superpacs. American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, a sister Spac with a status that allows all contributors to remain anonymous.

 

As a head of these organizations, Rove has set up, essentially a shadow political party where he makes the decisions where the money goes and answers to no one. American Crossroads has raised $200 million in addition to the pro-Romney Superpac, Restore Our Future. By the end of May, 2012, Rove's superpac network along with the Koch brothers (multi-billionaire brothers responsible for funding much of the Tea Party movement who are now on board with Rove) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have a new goal of 1 billion. This will be in addition to Romney Campaign money and RNC money which is expected to be $800 million. For perspective, John McCain's entire presidential budget was $370 million.

 

April 5, Ed Gillespie left American Crossroads and joined the Romney campaign as senior advisor, enabling Rove strategic oversight of Romney's campaign. Rove's old friend from the Reagan-Bush campaign, Beth Myers, was Romney's 2008 campaign manager and his chief of staff when he was governor. On April 16, Romney announced that Myers would be in charge of his selection process for the vice president position. Who cares about Romney's taxes when Rove, a quintessential game player, has his sights on capturing the White House, keeping the House of Representatives and winning back the Senate. Given that Rove can be credited with being the brain behind one of the worst presidents in US history (starting two horribly costly wars and leaving the country near economic collapse), there is substantial doubt whether he cares about who he gets elected as long as Rove wins the game. Right now, he has become the king of superpacs and, as the man controlling the money, has recreated himself as the vortex of power for the foreseeable future without popular support or oversight.

 

This is what we should watch and write our representatives and senators to change. They can overturn Citizens United with legislation. The power to elect should stay in the hands of the people who make up the country. That is the very foundation of America. If Mitt Romney gets elected to the presidency, the people of America should elect him, not the special interest groups and not a game-player who just wants to see if he can do it. You can read more about this in the August Issue of Vanity Fair (by Carl Unger) http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/09/karl-rove-gop-craig-unger and in the August Issue of Esquire (by Charles Pierce) http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/citizens-united-2012-10250917 Please be involved.

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