February 9th, 2012
07:50 PM ET

Will outrage over super PACs lead to change?

11 billion dollars.

According to the Federal Election Commission thats the amount of money that will be spent on this year's election.

It will be the most expensive election in history but as staggering as the number is, it's nothing new.

American politics and money have gone hand-in-hand forever.

At the turn of the last century, the William McKinley campaign received what was then an INSANE amount of money – $6 million – from railroad and steel barons.

Richard Nixon was given $2.5 million by an insurance magnate when he ran in 1968 and 1972.

And not much has changed since then.

Even with the landmark McCain-Feingold bill passed in 2002 that requires limits in political donations, cash still finds it way into campaign war chests.

And it happens on both sides of the aisle.

In 2004, George Soros gave $23.7 million to liberal causes and much of it ended up fueling John Kerry's campaign.

And, speaking of John Kerry, remember those Swift Boat ads?

Texas financier Bob Perry paid more than $4.5 million for them.

Six years later, we have Super PACs, which accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals to support candidates.

An overwhelming majority of the money is spent on negative ads.

The presidential candidates claim to hate them.

But do they really?

The man at the center of it all is Jim Bopp.

He's the one who first brought the now infamous Citizens United case before the Supreme Court, which, along with other lower court decisions, laid the groundwork for Super PACs.

Bopp is now a Romney supporter who thinks contributors should be able to give money directly to the candidates:

"Candidates are severely limited in what they can accept. I agree with Governor Romney. Why not give money to the candidate – the candidate is the one accountable to the American people – rather than give it to a Super PAC or some other entities like that? That would be preferable."

Filed under: Economy • Politics
February 9th, 2012
03:55 PM ET

After tragedy, Erin Burnett reflects on the difficult job of the social worker

When Josh Powell killed his two young sons and then himself, he left behind shattered family members–and a distraught social worker, who for months had been assigned to the boys' care, and drove the boys to the Powell home for a court-ordered supervised visit. Powell locked her out, leaving her forced to call 9-1-1 in a desperate effort to get help–a moment captured in a recording released by police:

DISPATCHER: Good morning.

SOCIAL WORKER: Hey, I'm on a supervised visitation for a court ordered exhibit and something really weird is happened. The kids went into the house and the parent, biological parent, his name is Josh Powell, will not let me in the door. What should I do?


911 OPERATOR: How did he gain access to the children before you got there?

SOCIAL WORKER: I was one step in back of them.

911 OPERATOR: So they went into the house and he locked you out?

SOCIAL WORKER: Yes. He shut the door right in my face.

911 OPERATOR: Alright, now it's clear. Your last name? ....

911 OPERATOR: And what agency are you with?

SOCIAL WORKER: Foster Care Resources Network. (Pause). And the kids have been in there by now approximately 10 minutes. And he knows this is a supervised visit.

911 OPERATOR: How many children?

SOCIAL WORKER: Two, Braden is five and Charlie is seven.

Help, in this case, would come too late for Braden and Charlie. And for Erin Burnett, blaming the social worker might be expected, but ultimately it's unfair. "On the surface, it seems everyone did everything not only that was required under the law, but also everything that felt right."

Burnett notes that in communities across the country, social workers face heavier workloads–and fewer resources. "There are so many social workers out there who are trying to do the right thing, and juggle all those cases they have to handle, and they do it with compassion, and they do it with love. And when something goes wrong, their lives are ruined too."

Filed under: Crime • Erin's Essay
February 9th, 2012
12:27 PM ET

Santorum's surge brings in big bucks, but he's still way, way behind

The single best day of fundraising.

That's what the pro-Santorum super PAC "RED, WHITE AND BLUE" said about Wednesday's cash flow.

Tuesday's three-state sweep exceeded all expectations and the donations are pouring in.

And Rick's not stopping there.

The Santorum campaign is on the hunt for financial support and they're using a reference to a past Conservative triumph to try and get it.

A new email from Santorum's team reads:

"Reagan got on a roll winning in North Carolina and a slew of states after that. The conservative base rallied to him, despite all odds. He went all the way to Convention."

It's been a good week for Santorum.

But he still has a long way to go.

The former Pennsylvania senator is still lagging WAY behind his rivals when it comes to money.

We followed the money, dug through the donor lists and learned some interesting things about the moneymen backing the GOP candidates.

The latest campaign filings show Santorum's major Super PAC was out-raised by Mitt Romney's 40 to 1.

It's not hard to figure out why when you realize Mitt Romney has the financial backing of 17 billionaires.

Newt Gingrich has 2.

Rick Santorum has one… wannabe billionaire.

Foster Friess, a born-again Christian and supporter of Conservative Christian causes, is worth 530 million dollars and is Santorum's biggest financial backer.

Nearly half – $331,000 of $729,000 – of Rick's major Super PAC support comes from Friess.

When we asked Friess about his support of Santorum he said, "I'm not the hands-on guy. I like writing the check and I turn it over to the guys that make it happen, much like the way I ran my business. My success came up not because of my brilliance, but because of the people I was fortunate enough to surround myself with... I'll write a check. That's the way God has given me to participate."

Filed under: Economy • Politics
February 9th, 2012
10:26 AM ET

Previously on OutFront: Friess: "I like writing the check and turning it over."

Previously on OutFront, on the heels of his latest victory in Missouri, Colorado and Minnesota, we followed the money behind Presidential Candidate, Rick Santorum. In Syria, as the Russian prime minister receives a warm welcome from supporters of the Bashar al-Assad regime,  Erin digs into the connection between Russia and Syria. In Erin's Essay,  Erin takes a look at the role of the social worker involved in the Josh Powell murder-suicide case.  FULL POST

Filed under: Uncategorized