Reflecting the public’s low level of awareness about campaign finance and this year’s election, just 40% can correctly identify a “super PAC” as a group that is able to accept unlimited political donations. Nearly half (46%) don’t know what the term refers to, while 14% give incorrect responses.
The ad campaign is the latest example of how independent political groups funded by a small number of wealthy donors are shaping the presidential campaign in key swing states. Conservative groups and “super PACs” have been particularly aggressive, pummeling Mr. Obama on the airwaves as Mitt Romney’s campaign waits until after the Republican National Convention — when it will be legally permitted to spend the hundreds of millions of dollars it has raised in recent months — to ramp up its advertising efforts.
American for Prosperity said that the first of several ads would begin appearing on Wednesday in 11 battleground states, including here in Florida. The campaign will last for three weeks — extending through Labor Day weekend — and includes Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
FightBigotry.com, a new Super PAC registered with the Federal Election Commission this week, makes no bones about its aim. It intends to run an attack ad that it says will hit President Barack Obama for “his disturbing, yet crystal-clear pattern of tacitly defending black racism against white folks before and since being elected president.”
FightBigotry.com’s founder and treasurer is Stephen Marks, a well-known Republican opposition researcher whose 2008 book Confessions of a Political Hitman detailed his work in what he called “the dark side of politics.” In 2000, he launched an attack ad under the misleading name “Americans Against Hate,” attempting to tie Al Gore to controversial comments by Rev. Al Sharpton. Another Marks spot in 2004 attempted to link John Kerry to convicted murderer Willie Horton. He was forced to retract a claim in the book about then-Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), acknowledging that “the information was not accurate.”
A two-minute version of the new spot is already available on the group’s website, though the group promises a one-minute version is forthcoming. In it, he says:
The Obama administration has injected race into the presidential campaign. Obama Attorney General Eric Holder recently said – with no argument from the president – that their white critics are motivated by race. Implying whites are too stupid to have honest disagreements with the president without being racist is in-and-of-itself racist against whites, reinforcing Mr. Obama’s disturbing pattern of tacitly defending black racism. …
Obama’s attorney general said pursuing the New Black Panthers does a great disservice to whose “who risked all, for my people.” So it’s okay for his people to commit racial crimes? In 2009, President Obama defended his friend Henry Louis Gates after a racist altercation with police, telling a white officer he wouldn’t speak to him but would speak to his mama. Mr. Obama’s response? “The Cambridge police acted stupidly.” …
Mr. President, you ran as the candidate of change. But one thing has not changed—your tacit defense of racism against white folks, despite receiving nearly half the white vote to win the presidency.
Beyond the obvious race-baiting, the ad is riddled with factual errors. Holder’s March 2011 statement was criticizing a Congressman for equating an a 2008 New Black Panther Party incident with the much more violent assaults against voting rights advocates in the 1960s – not about “pursuing the New Black Panthers.”
And what this group terms a “racist altercation with police” involved a Harvard University professor being stopped by police for trying to enter his own home. Even conservative Fox News legal analyst and former New Jersey state Judge Andrew Napolitano called it an “improper arrest.”
In 2008, Marks said that he was “retiring from politics.” Sadly, he’s back to his old tricks — using an Orwellian name to inject racism into yet another campaign through smears.
A surprisingly accurate interpretation of every super PAC ad, ever
With just 99 days until the election, it’s understandable that political ads — from both sides — have more or less begun to look the same. That’s why this satirical take on super PAC-style attack ads from cartoonist Mark Fiore made us chuckle. Here’s the transcript:
Can we risk an America run by [INSERT OPPONENT’S NAME]?
He clearly doesn’t understand that America is built on hard work, not [INSERT OPPONENT’S PREVIOUS OCCUPATION].
Sure, now he says he opposes [HOT-BUTTON ISSUE] [NEWS CLIP], but he used to support [HOT-BUTTON ISSUE] [GRAINY FOOTAGE WITH DEAD POLITICIAN].
[OPPONENT’S NAME] is called [NEGATIVE ADJECTIVE] for America, and [APOCALYPTIC NOUN] for our future. He and his organization [ADVERB] attack, because he is an [ADJECTIVE] [SYNONYM FOR LIAR].
He claims to be an [POSITIVE NOUN], but is nothing more than an [ADJECTIVE] [BODY PART] [NEGATIVE NOUN].
Around here, that [DOWN HOME METAPHOR] just don’t [VERB].
Better ask yourself, can America risk [INSERT OPPONENT’S NAME]?
Paid for by [UPLIFTING VERB] Our Future, another super PAC with so much [EXPLETIVE] secret money, it’s [EXPLETIVE] [ADJECTIVE].
When you set up a Swift Boat-stylefront group to accuse President Obama of stealing credit for the military’s valor, maybe it’s not the best idea to steal the military’s official logos in the process. “Special Operations for America,” a new super-PAC* endorsing Mitt Romney for president and ridiculing Obama over the Osama bin Laden raid, appears to have done precisely that. By using part or all of the insignia of the Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army, and the US Special Operations Command on its website, Facebook, and Twitter pages, the super-PAC has run afoul of military regulations, according to representatives of the US Marine Corps and Air Force who spoke to Mother Jones.
Nebraska Democratic Senate candidate Bob Kerrey sent a letter Tuesday to his opponent, GOP state Sen.Deb Fischer, calling for a pledge to end spending by super PACs in their race. “I propose that we sign an agreement to vigorously oppose any and all such spending from now until November 6,” Kerrey wrote in the letter. “Our bi-partisan agreement would have a very positive impact and send a wonderful signal to the nation about our values.” Kerrey made the proposal following an interview Fischer did with a local TV station saying she opposed super PAC spending.Only the Texas and Indiana Senate campaigns have seen more outside spending so far this cycle than the Nebraska race, where outside groups have already spent more than $3 million, according to Center for Responsive Politics research.
Let’s unPAC the 2012 Olympics by sending a powerful message to NBC
Last week, a super PAC called Restore our Future purchased $7.2 million worth of ads to run during this summer’s London Olympics—and we know more are coming. The Games are about national unity and fair competition; special interest negative ads are about division, half-truths, and unfair play. These ads have no place during the Olympics.
Let’s stop these negative ads from ruining the Olympics. Broadcast airwaves are owned by the public and leased to stations like NBC to create programing in the public interest. We have the final say in how they should be used. In the past, networks have set up special “no advocacy ads” policies during events like the Super Bowl. If enough of us raise our voice, we can pressure NBC to make the same commitment.
Add your voice at the unPAC Olympics Campaign
Have you heard about super PACs?
Well, we’re hoping YOU have (as our Tumblr follower), but we wanted what the average voters knows and thinks of the outside spending groups that have been throwing their financial weight around this election.
Our Consider the Source Reporter Michael Beckel and eager participant/camera lady Sarah Whitmire walked around the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on the Fourth of July to ask folks if they’d heard of super PACs, if they’d seen political ads so far this cycle and how it all made them feel.
The ensuing conversation went a little further than you might expect.
Two federal court rulings in 2010 paved the way for the ascent of “super PACs,” political action committees that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races, as long as they don’t coordinate with a specific candidate. And so far, they’re spending heavily on the Republican race. This app, part of our long-term investigation into “dark money,” keeps track of where super PACs are spending and raising their cash to influence the presidential race.
Jerry Perenchio: Making it rain
In addition to owning rights to the movie “Blade Runner” and living in the mansion used in filming “The Beverley Hillbillies,” former Hollywood executive Jerry Perenchio is perhaps better known in the political world as a super donor.
Thanks to Rainmaker, a donation-tracking app from California Watch, we know Perenchio has given nearly $17 million to candidates and issues in the Golden State since 2001 — recently, he’s favored Republican candidates and causes.
On the nationwide level, Perenchio parted ways with another $2.6 million during this election cycle alone, according to FEC filings. What will get him to break open the checkbook?
- $2 million to conservative super PAC American Crossroads
- $500,000 to pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future
- He’s a frequent supporter of the California Republican Party: Perenchio has given the party $5.4 million during this cycle, in addition to a long list of big donations from 2010 and earlier.
Perenchio is famously silent to media, despite being so closely interwoven into both California politics and the old-school Hollywood scene. He’s known for adhering to this rule, “Stay clear of the press. No interviews, no panels, no speeches, no comments. Stay out of the spotlight — it fades your suit.”
We tweet extensively. Follow the hashtag #source2012 for all kinds of breaking and investigative election-related news.
In the wake of all of this news on the Supreme Court’s health care decision, the ruling that clears the way for Citizens United and the increasingly influential role of corporate money and Super PACs may be forgotten…but ultimately more important for the future of the U.S.
The move comes as such tax-exempt groups - many of which have better-known sister organizations known as “Super PACs,” or political action committees - are under criticism from Democrats and some Republicans for using money from anonymous sources to try to influence elections.
Like Super PACs, tax-exempt political groups can raise and spend unlimited funds - in contrast to political campaigns, which may receive only $2,500 per donor each election cycle.
Super PACs, which must disclose their donors, operate independently from campaigns but may release ads that boost or attack specific candidates.
Tax-exempt groups, meanwhile, can qualify under the U.S. tax code as social welfare groups, which allows them to keep their donors private as long as most of their money is spent on so-called “issue ads.” Unlike regular political ads, such ads cannot use a candidate’s name or likeness and are supposed to be used to educate the public on broad issues or positions.
But some ads released by tax-exempt groups have pushed those boundaries, raising questions about the groups’ legal status and calls for them to be forced to disclose their donors, as Super PACs do.