Are Super PACs really super villains?

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Super PACs have become this year’s super-villains.

Thanks to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing them, “super” political action committees that are independent but support certain candidates can raise unlimited amounts of money _ and individuals are allowed to give unlimited amounts to them.

Technically, the Super PACs aren’t allowed to coordinate their activities with the candidates they support. But it’s naive to think they would ignore a candidate’s wishes. …

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The public, though, is deadly serious about wanting Super PACs banned, by a margin of nearly 70 percent in an ABC News/Washington Post poll _ an astounding consensus crossing party lines.

There’s good reason for that: Political ads have long tended toward the negative, but with the influx of all that new money, Super PACs have become a main sewer pipeline, dumping political raw sewage all over the campaign. It has made the nation’s politics all the more toxic.

We do wonder how one goes about banning Super PACs under the First Amendment. While the current incarnation of PACs is obnoxious and unsettling, one of this nation’s most cherished liberties and greatest assets is the freedom to form associations _ including those that promote political causes and candidates. How to rein in Super PACs without stepping on that vital freedom is a tricky task.

While we sort that out, however, there’s another election practice that is a ton more dangerous to the body politic: The profligate support of candidates by public-sector labor unions.

The Denver Post reports that a public-sector union network of contributors in that state “helped Colorado’s liberal super PACs spend nearly 150 times more money than their Republican counterparts in 2010.”

But the danger isn’t a partisan one; it’s a practical one. If public-sector unions _ often using cash supplied by taxpayers, in the form of mandatory dues paid by workers _ are successful in essentially hiring their own bosses, who are in turn beholden to them, the upward pressure on public spending only increases.

This, at a time when most states are bowing under the weight of public-employee benefits and retirements. …

Super PACs are fun to hate. But the real action, the real potential for lasting harm, is elsewhere.

– Augusta Chronicle