The Biggest Liars in Politics?: “Outside Spending Groups”

The Biggest Liars in Politics?: “Outside Spending Groups” July 13, 2012

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 & 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, outside spending groups are the biggest liars in politics. 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. 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, the break down is conservative: $127 million, liberal: $39 million.

If you are interested in fact checking, here are some good web sites:

Washington Post Fact Checker



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  • Den

    I can only say this – groups of this type are one of the main actors in the on-going drama that is the decline of the United States. Given that they can raise money without limit, and given that they lie with impunity, and given that our general level of political sophistication seems to be degrading over time, this is not surprising.

    When Fox News can call themselves “fair and balanced,” and yet be nothing more than a propaganda organ for the more conservative and reactionary parts of the GOP, and when MSNBC can be the left-side equivalent of Fox News, it’s pretty obvious that we’re all going to see nothing but worse and worse if we hope to hear truth, or some reasonable facsimile.

    I wish things looked better to me, but they don’t. Our politics right now suck. I guess this is the new normal…

  • Scott Stone

    While I’m not a fan of CU and have been a supporter of public financing for all candidates, even third party candidates receiving a set dollar amount, there is more to look at than just Super Pacs and outside money. Through May (according to NY Times campaign finance tracker) President Obama has raised $260,926,200 for his reelection. Romney has raised $122,024,185. President Obama has set a goal of raising $1B for his reelection. That number will dwarf anything outside groups raise. After extrapolating the numbers out I find it unjustified to say that this election will be bought by outside money. Public finance, term limits, and a shortened election cycle would do wonders for our politics.


  • Tim Suttle

    All good points, Scott. The NY Times also reported: “All told, Republican candidates, party committees and outside groups have spent $269 million on broadcast advertising, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group, compared with $133 million for the Democratic side.” Romney had a $35 million advantage in June alone, his 2nd straight month of double digit advantage. He’s set to out fund raise the Obama campaign. Plus he’ll have the advantage with outside spending groups. But none of that is what my main point is. No matter who wins the fund raising race, outside groups are set to spend hundreds of millions on the campaign – especially in battleground states where they focus their money – so they will have a significant impact. And they are the worst with integrity of information. There is too much money going toward elections, so little accountability, and not enough integrity.

  • Alan Conwell

    New CBO projected cost of Obamacare, $2.6 Trillion. Info from NPR website.

  • Tim Suttle

    It’s not called Obamacare, it’s called the Affordable Care Act. The 2.6 does not count offsets from savings and taxes/penalties – article at FoxNews: “As expensive as it is, the CBO predicts the law will actually reduce the deficit because it increases the income from a range of tax increases and penalties on individuals, employers and insurance companies — by $81 billion more than last year’s projection.”

    • scott stone

      The CBO finally scored the ACA after SCOTUS decision.

      TABLE 4.
      Estimate of the Budgetary Effects of the Insurance Coverage Provisions Contained in the Affordable Care Act, Updated for Supreme Court Decision:


      This is why we all needed to wait and see until final projections came in. Noby was even close in guessing the actual cost. This is the NET cost. Well, what’s another trillion dollars to people who don’t know how to be good stewards anyway. It’s not their money they are spending.

  • scott stone

    CBO has not re-scored the ACA. They needed to account for the SCOTUS ruling. We are waiting until the 23rd of July to get a true cost to the program. All numbers given right now are just speculation.

    I wish they’d scrap the whole program and go to a universal single payer system that we all have to contribute to. To many waivers granted and not everyone will be covered. Also, as an employer I don’t understand why it is my responsibility to insure my employees. I don’t pay for their car insurance or home owners insurance but I’m expected to pay for health insurance. It’s so bad now that employers who don’t provide insurance are considered a pariah. Why should I be penalized or taxed more?

    One other thing about the ACA. An acquaintance of mine is a law professor at Marquette University. After reviewing the SCOTUS ruling, the federal government can now tax/penalize us for not participating in commerce that they deem beneficial to society if a law is put into place by congress. Completely hypothetical, but if congress and the president believe we should all purchase a Chevy Volt from GM, they can tax/penalize us for not doing so. I find that to be a bit concerning

  • Tim Suttle

    Hey Scott, The universal single payer system is interesting. Isn’t that the way it is in the UK? Just wondering. I know the gov’t CAN do that. But the assumption is they won’t. They can do lots of things. They can forcibly conscript citizens into military service and make them to fight in a war. They have done it often.

    I really didn’t intend this post to be a discussion of the ACA. I’m talking about a completely compromised electoral system that has been hijacked by an unjust SCOTUS ruling (Citizens United). That is something we should all be upset about. Will the Koch brothers really spend $300 million on this election? I sort of hope they do and then their guy loses. But the real tragedy is what they are doing in local politics. They got involved in some really dirty political misinformation in my father in law’s campaign this week for the Kansas Senate. AFP sent a totally misleading mailer about “Obamacare” saying he cast the deciding vote (he’s a state sen. in KS – not on federal level, it’s silly!). They gave out his home phone number and address – not his senate office and phone. All of this followed by 48 hours of mean spirited, sometimes cruel and disrespectful phone calls from 6am to 2 o’clock in the morning. That is what AFP does. It’s sickening. Something has to change or all of the reasonable folks will quit politics.

    • Gregg

      You should have included the story of your father-in-law in your article. That is despicable and a great example of how nasty things can get when there is no accountability.

  • scott stone

    Yep. England has a very progressive system. While their delivery is rather poor, at least everyone is covered. I’m more familiar with Germany than England. They have a two tiered system. Anyone making under 50,000E has to participate in the public systems, which costs employees 15.5% of their income. If you make more than 50K you can opt out and into the private system. Actually less expensive and better services.
    Funny about the timing of this. One of our friends from Germany got into town last night and we had a great discussion about health care (he refers to me as a capitalist pig and I call him my commi pinko buddy). He is very pro universal coverage but at the same time states that health care in the US is second to none. When critical care is needed and when life threatening situations occur, everyone knows to come to the US. We have the greatest medical research environment in the world. Now the real question is how do we provide that to everyone, not jeopardize services, and make it affordable.
    To your main point. I see no other solution than public financing. Without that being the law of the land there will always be a way around any form of reform.
    One last thing on the Koch brothers, the new boogeyman of the left, and lets be honest, that is what they are. The left always has to find a boogeyman to go after. While I may not agree with all of their politics, they are truly wonderful philanthropists.
    The analysis of who is going to spent what on this campaign forgot one very important entity. According to the HuffPo labor unions are expected to spend $400B with more than 90% going to democrats, If we want to repeal CU, which I am in favor of, we need to level the playing field and restrict labor unions spending

  • Tim Suttle

    Yep, labor and business should both be locked out. I think publicly funded elections are the only way to level the playing field.

  • Tim Suttle

    Gregg – yeah, I struggled with even mentioning it in the comments. In all the years I’ve had an inside look at Kansas politics, it seems clear that evangelical Christians are very often the most disrespectful, cruel, and ill-informed of all constituencies. Groups like AFP are a big reason why this is the case. AFP really is unconscionable.