In the midst of the uproar over the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, and the courts decision to strike down three-fourths of the Arizona immigration law, their failure to deal with the disastrous Citizens United decision was largely unnoticed, which is interesting given that Citizen’s United could end up being the most critical of the three decisions. Citizens United will likely have much deeper impact on our society and could threaten the very basis of free elections in the U.S.
One outcome of the Citizens United decision has been the creation of the Super PAC. These groups are raising money in staggering amounts and can spend it with very little accountability or oversight. There are other independent non-profit groups such as the American for Prosperity, the group financed by the Koch Brothers, or the conservative American Commitment group, run by Phil Kerpen, who spent five years running AFP. Both American Commitment and AFP enjoy non-profit status, which means they don’t have to reveal their donors, but they can (and do), spend all the money they want to influence elections. The left has their own version – albeit w/much smaller numbers – most notably Moveon.org & George Soros. Somewhere around $10 billion will be spent on the coming elections, much of it through these outside spending groups.
What is perhaps more disturbing that the sheer numbers, is the fact that these outside spending groups tell outrageous lies. More and more political influence is being wielded by groups who can raise shocking amounts of money and operate with little or no accountability. The net effect is, quite simply, that outside spending groups can and do distort the truth and tell outright lies with little or no backlash or consequences. According to politifact.com, outside spending groups are the biggest liars in politics.
Politifact.com is a fact checking organization who keeps tabs on the lies and the half truths in politics. They checked some of the statements included in a $1.1 million ad campaign in Florida conducted by a non-profit group called “American Commitment.” The campaign targeted Sen. Bill Nelson, a democrat senator from Florida on the Affordable Care Act. Politifact.com found some interesting misinformation:
The ad said: “The health care law could cost up to $2 trillion, “double what we promised.”
Fact Check: False, “In fact, the CBO has said that overall the health care bill actually reduces government spending by about $124 billion over 10 years.”
The ad said: Health care law is “imposes the largest tax increase in history on the middle class.”
Fact Check: Pants on Fire (as in liar, liar – Politifact’s worst distinction), “Actually, the law is not the largest tax increase in history, and most of its taxes fall on the wealthy and the health care industry.”
The bottom line is that outside spending groups can raise billions, many do not have to disclose their donors, they are not held accountable for what they say, so they routinely twist words and take statements out of context, they distort information and meaning, and often outright lie, all with absolutely no consequences. Outside spending groups now wield unprecedented influence over elections. Both the right and the left have their own outside spending groups, although in this election we are learning that the outside spending groups on the right will far outspend those on the left. According to Opensecret.org, the break down is conservative: $127 million, liberal: $39 million.
If you are interested in fact checking, here are some good web sites: