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
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. DavidinWA

    Sure – give the money straight to the candidate – then we can call it what it truly is anyway: BRIBERY.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  2. cj

    We can learn something from Norway...TV and radio adds for political candidates are illegal.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Reply
  3. REG in AZ

    Times are tough and hopefully we don't come out of the Nov election making it worse, by being conned and swayed with all of the propaganda. The deficit, government spending, "bigger government" and "liberal" efforts really haven't caused our problems (that is obvious when viewed rationally and objectively) ... but if too many people believe that propaganda, then we are very apt to be returned to "more of the same", Bush-Cheney style, and the actions that did cause the problems; i.e., a permissive, co-responsible government catering to "the few" (1%) while giving the majority (99%) only apathy, the costs and an abundance of subterfuge to con and manipulate. Our problems are the result of exploitation by the advantaged few, permitted and encouraged by politicians acting as "puppets" for "the few", who literally "pull the strings" and strongly support them.

    While the deficit, uncontrolled spending and being too liberal are valid concerns, to be deceived that they are the current major problems is to be fooled into focusing in the wrong direction and to then allow "more of the same", which is at the real root of the problems: i.e., permissive government, excessive deregulation, no oversight, lax enforcement, privileged exploitation, putting political ambitions above all else, no bipartisan cooperation, faulting and blocking all efforts, politicians coerced and intimidated to force unity and to squelch individual consciences, “puppet” candidates ready to perform, SuperPacs and others using humungous funds to con and manipulate the public and the constant plain and simple lying to achieve selfish interests. Hopefully the voters can reject the deception, along with “the money’s" sponsored candidates.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Reply
    • Tini

      Am I tripping or what?Where is Michelle Bachmann? There is no way that she slouhd of been excluded from this video. The woman is a walking gaffe maker.I am not going to let them scare me Villager. That's part of their Mode of Operation. They are all talking sincerely stupid and they have a following that is laughing it up. But this will also be the same people who will be up in arms when things do not work out like they think that they slouhd.Maybe I am off base in my thinking but I do not believe that the entire conservative block is this far off their mental game.

      April 5, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Reply
  4. jon

    This country is just so screwed!

    February 10, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Reply
  5. Dina

    "We the people" do not want this.
    But "we the people" are powerless to change this.
    What are we?

    February 10, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  6. Tom Nastachowski

    We the people of Wisconsin got rid of the one politician that actually want this to stop. Sorry Senator Feingold. We have given power to businesses. And they will pay to keep that power.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Reply
  7. MyPOV

    Anonymous donors are the problem, not the amount. As long as I know who you are – spend all you want. But you are not allowed to use shills or stay anonymous.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Reply
  8. ptw

    It NEEDS to change, but money puts people into power and it will be hard to get politicians to bite the hand that feeds them.

    You can see it simply from the hypocrisy going on. Republicans were all for Super PACs and "Citizens are people!", but now that the guy they don't like (Romney) and the guy they like even less (Obama) can raise so much Super PAC money and win that way, suddenly Super PACs need to be looked at.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Reply
    • ptw

      Sigh...meant "corporations are people". Friday brain-dead.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  9. Eric

    I guess this is the real reason why corporations shed their employees, it's to be able to put more money toward super PACs. Elections have turned into a football game for the wealthy.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Reply
    • duh

      well said. they kiss up to us average citizen with promises never meaning to be kept and then service those who funded their campaign.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  10. Lenn

    Let's not forget the GOP Golden Rule........ He who has the gold makes the rules!!!

    February 10, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
    • duh

      it's not just the GOP but both sides..... take off you blinders

      February 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  11. jd

    Glad that politicians except this knowing this is a much better resource to throw money at in society/humanity.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Reply
  12. Glenn in Vt.

    The Arab Spring, the French Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the American Revolution all began over crap like this. We the people need to take control of the situation not abdicating our franchise to vote.

    February 10, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Reply
  13. steve-o

    It's just wrong

    February 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Reply
  14. Todd Strbik

    There is a potentially simple solution to all of this. If a corporation is considered an individual, then treat them like one. No more corporate pacs etc... same rules and same doantion limits you or I have. It might fix a little of the problem...

    February 10, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Reply
    • steve g

      yes – and since they are individuals, they should pay individual/personal taxes and limited to the same deductions you and I have!

      February 10, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Reply
    • DDanny1

      It's like they say "I'll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one."

      February 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  15. AH

    Even though the money may come anonymous source to broadcast negitive ads, the real issue lies with the fact that the average American voter will not investigate the contents of the ads, but blindly believes what they are shown. If the American people spent time and researched the candidates, and made informed decisions, the Super PAC influence would dry up in a minute.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • jd

      completely agree!

      February 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • jd

      facebook is more important and that is what the internet is for isn't it?

      February 10, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • hexdragon

      How can the average person figure out what it true and what is lies when both parties hide the truth... or part of the truth.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Reply
  16. Joe

    In states where Romney ran millions of dollars worth of negative ads,he won. When he didn't, he lost. In other words, people can be stampeded like mindless buffalo to make choices they might not make if they were to use their brains instead of their emotions. Democracy is supposed to be based on rational choices of the people. As long as we have unlimited money funding negative campaigns, we don't qualify as a democracy.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      As someone once put it, Democracy is 3 wolves and a sheep voting on dinner. There's no objective merit to the winner other than what is essentially a popularity contest. One person = one vote by definition promotes mediocrity and is subject to the least common denominator, euphemistically referred to as swing voters. The only reason any of this is popular is because no one's figured out an alternative that is both moral and effective.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Reply
  17. ddblah

    Money is not speech!

    February 10, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Reply
  18. Keith

    Oh great. So now the GOP wants to be able to have corruption flowing not only into the SuperPACs but ALSO the campaign coffers directly. The Supreme Court's argument in support of limiting campaign contributions while not limiting SuperPAC contributions was that campaign contributions can be more readily seen as corruption. Apparently GOP operatives no longer care about even the appearance of corruption.

    Yes, we're all still waiting for the new out-right lie the Swift Boaters are going to try and tell this election. If a jury finds you guilty of lieing in a political ad, you should get sent to jail for 10 years and prevented from being involved in politics for the rest of your life for having committed treason against the American democratic system. I don't care which side of the aisle you're from. If a jury in a fair trial finds you guilty of lying, that's it you're done.

    This has FAR less to do with retribution than it does with prevention. I'd readily prefer that no one end up going to jail because the law stopped them all from lying.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Reply
    • The all potent one

      Both sides of the isle has no meaning to you?

      February 10, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  19. wide awake

    i'll believe corporations are people when texas executes one.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      Well said!

      February 10, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Reply
    • TomBigD

      Well said

      February 10, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Reply
    • Publius Novus

      I think I agree.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Reply
  20. Simon Green

    The money isn't the issue. We live in a free society, in a free society people can do whatever they want with their money. The problem is the majority of American citizens are idiots. They place their votes based on 30 second negative ads they seen on TV. If people spent the time educating themselves on each candidate and ignored the TV and radio ads we’d have a good government and these Super PACS would have no influence. Someone needs to start a Super Pac that doesn’t back one candidate or the other but works to spread the truth. It should take every ad from every side and tells us how truthful that ad was.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Reply
    • FDR

      Great, so now we need to create a super PAC, and waste our precious wealth, just to rebut the falsehoods and propaganda of super PAC's? Why don't we just burn our money every 2-4 years and elect Ronald McDonald as president.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Reply
  21. Bobbb

    I supposed the transparency issue brought up here will be a preferable compromise since limiting the money a candidate can accept is not as fair as it would seem on its face. Knowing who gave what amount in the end will demonstrate who is susceptible to bribery. In the end should a politician even so much as appear to be voting the way of a contributor the conclusion is that that politician took a bribe and we should expel him or her from office. On a more current issue I would like to see these SUPERPac's be held liable for slander charges for their negative ads ftoward candidates where those ads can be clearly upheld as slanderous. These two measures should bring SUPERPac's into a responsible election aid for all citizens.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  22. GrogInOhio

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

    Uhm... no Mr. Bopp. What would be preferable is that every person in the US have EXACTLY the same influence in elections as everyone else. One person, one vote... end of discussion. Buying votes is a corruption of democracy. But I bet you kinda knew that, didn't you?

    February 10, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  23. Patrish

    Money always speaks loudly – and not always for the best. These contributors will expcet something down that road that will benefit them. And it sure isn't to help the middle class, the real backbone of this country. Out politics in the US is becoming more corrupt – a shame.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  24. msmetz


    February 10, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  25. Eddie

    its a crime no if ands or buts.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  26. Old Shoe

    Mark Freidemann hits the bullseye dead center. It would be outrageous and dangerous to allow the Iranian president to ante up money for the candidate of his choice, or to allow the Russian or Chinese government to buy the presidency for the candidate of their choice. With no transparency, we have no way of knowing this ISN"T happening.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  27. Sad Time

    A sad time for America. Big money buying elections like never before. We need taxpayer funded election money, equal amount to each candidate and that is it and all other money ads or campaigning should be illegal.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  28. Berk

    Why shouldn't a legal U.S. corporation, set up sole for the purpose of influencing elections, be able to take unlimited secret funding from the Chinese Government to influece the selection of US elected officials. We are a free market economy and if the Chinese what to spend the most money to have it run their way so be it. Shouldn't they have the same rights as any citizen. Beside it increases advertising revenues for media companies which creates weath for shareholders allowing the job makers to creat more jobs. It is only reasonble that American elections will be decided by 20 or 30 fake corportations or billionaires and 8 clowns in funny robes. Super PACs comply with the the Golden Rule and are clearly consistent with the ideas our founding fathers fought and died for and why so many from around the world have flocked hear. It is America at its best and a core American value.

    February 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm | Reply
    • Steve

      Sarcasm doesn't work well on blogs. There will be people that take you seriously.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Reply
    • Bruce

      Wow, Berk. That is dripping with sarcasm, I hope. Most people won't get your post. They'll take it literally, I think.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  29. Justin

    Allow candidates to have the same ballpark numbers in terms of spending, let them each do their own thing. The better candiate wins. This way no one is hidered in terms of spending or for not having enough rich supporters in your corner lining your pockets with endless streams of cash flow. Wait nevermind that wouldn't make sense, with it sounding logical and whatnot

    February 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  30. Fortherich

    Americans can't complain about anything. They are the ones that keep putting the millionaires in office so they get what they deserve. Do you really think a millionaire gives a rats @$$ about the common people. If you want change then elect a common person.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:49 pm | Reply
  31. Big_D

    The SCOTUS is corrupt and the corrupt conflict of interest by Thomas and Scalia should be a criminal matter.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Reply
    • Steve Kirsis

      You hit the nail right on the head. Been a problem since Clarence Thomas.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Reply
  32. NoCommentCNN

    Folks the root cause of this comes down to campaign finance laws.
    The people rights for fair representation are being undermined by large campaign donators who pick and choose who will be our representatives. The two major parties pick and finance who they wish to run for office to represent you. Along with that the two major parties allow anyone or any business to contribute an unlimited amount of money to promote your representative's election.
    Why should a billionaire from one state have the right to give money to a candidate in another state? The same goes for corporations, unions, special interest groups, PACs and lobbyists, why should they be allowed to pick and finance your elected representation when they do not even live in your community?
    "We the People" need to have the power of our votes count again without the influence of the wealthy, special interests, PACs, unions and corporate money that cheats the voters of having a true choice.
    I say that NO money can come from anyone other than individuals who live within the voter district the candidate wishes to represent. And those donations need to be restricted to a set maximum level so Billionaires do not pick and choose the winners.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Reply
  33. Viv

    The GOP appointed judges are still in the Supreme court. Why should we surprised with this SuperPac ruling.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Reply
    • scieng1

      The issue was Obama flipping his position–again. The difference is that the libs wanted the public to pay for all costs related to candidates so that the candidates could receive their money from donors as individuals–which would have been even worse than this.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Reply
    • Larry

      Maybe it is time for our supreme justices to step down. They now longer represent the people.

      February 10, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Reply
      • Publius Novus

        Here's a civics lesson for you Larry. Judges do not and are not supposed to "represent" anyone. They aren't representatives. They're judges. There is and should be a very large difference between representatives and judges. Now go back and re-read your 9th grade civics textbook.

        February 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm | Reply
      • rker321

        That is the course of action that all Americans should demand from our government and Congress. These people need to have terms like anyone else. They are by far more powerful than Congress and the President themselves.

        February 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Reply
    • rker321

      It is amazing to me that in this country that claims to have a Democracy, We have a Supreme Court that dictates our laws, and that has this much power, and they cannot be terminated or voted out.
      They act as if they were a monarchy they don't even have to answer to anyone, and we all are binded by what they say.

      February 10, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Reply
  34. larry goldsmith

    Errin, money from the historically corrupt labor unions should be challenged if Corporate monies are coming into question. In Illinois union monies have bought tax payer funded pensions for union bosses were not employees of the State. The Union support exclusively the Democrats and give hundreds of millions of dollars. Let’s not be one –sided in our reporting. Enjoy your show

    February 10, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  35. Orville Reddenbecker

    Can't the American people see that, after the Supreme Court ruling in the Citizen's United case, a small minority of wealthy and powerful individuals will now be able to determine the outcome of elections? And if you happen to hold views contrary to these peoples' interests, you don't ever stand a chance of ever winning a major election in the United States?

    February 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  36. M1sf1ts

    As an American citizen, taaxpayer, and voter, I DEMAND campaign finance reform. I will NOT be ruled by an oligarchy.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Reply
  37. M1sf1ts

    Neither Corporations NOR Unions are People.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  38. WhereIsPalin

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

    That says more about people than policy.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Reply
  39. sayer

    I hope all of their $$$ is wasted on the GOP and the people elect President Obama anyway. Vote!

    February 10, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Reply
    • jj

      Obama 2012! Hillary 2016!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  40. AngryBob

    Who wants it to end? I contributed to both Santorum and Gingrich's superpacs (Romney doesn't need the money). Why? Because it's great fun watching the Republicans tear each other down. By the time the primary is over, none of these fools will be electable and Obama will be a shoo in. Let the Billionaires take over this circus. It's just going to get more amusing as time goes on.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      Yes, I bet at least some of them are rueing the day they advocated for them.

      February 10, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Reply
    • Steve Kirsis

      I hope you are right!

      February 10, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Reply
    • jj

      Not so amusing if the Repubs win and let the poor, the old, and the infirm die in the streets...

      February 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Reply
  41. Phattee

    Corporations are NOT people, my friends.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply
    • Andrew

      Bingo! When will we have our "Arab Spring" to dethrone the corporations?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
    • scieng1

      Really? Corporations are owned by people, run by people, staffed by people, rely on other people for services, borrow money from people, pay their dividends to people, and have people who are legally responsible for their actions. You cannot tax them without taking money from people, regulate them without impacting the jobs of people, and loan them money without people signing for it. It seems like buildings are confused with corporations.

      February 10, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Reply
      • Ken

        A corporation can be grown, shrunk, disbanded, split, bankrupted, and bought out. People in it can be fired, moved, demoted, or promoted at the will of the head of the corporation. One person can own or control more than one corporation, and everyone involved is subject to his will and whims. Mitt Romney killed corporations for a living, so by his logic, he's a mass murderer. And if they are people, they can be subject to the same spending limits, and the whole organization gets one vote.

        February 10, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  42. Roger

    The 1% bought the Legislative Branch of government via lobbyists, etc. Now they want to buy the Executive Branch. What else is new?
    The Foundiing Fathers who had democracy in mind must be tearing their heavenly hair out now. To see Democracy so perverted by 1% money must be driving them bananas. Not only is Democracy under seige at the top via PAC money, it's under seige at the bottom via new restrictions on voting rights of the masses. The 1% has effectively put Democracy in a death grip squeeze, from the top AND from the bottom.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Reply
  43. lance corporal

    it should be we the people not we the rich people..........

    what's goin on with these super pacs is untenable in a free society
    and it's not just the pacs.. the lobbying too
    if we can't get the big money out and REAL transparency
    well the storm that's coming could take us down

    February 10, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  44. Jack

    I originally thought that Obama’s negative criticism of the Chiefs Justices for passing the Citizans United case, was unnecessary. I see now the magnitude of the politically motivated travesty they committed.

    February 10, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  45. jim

    That's a good point from Mark, what about the transparency issue?

    February 10, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  46. tim

    It took so many years to get the watery McCain-Feingold passed. The SCOTUS Citizens United ruling set us back 25 years, just like the 2001-2009 disaster did.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  47. jwest

    I;ve said it before and i'll say it again, Its a sad day in america when you have to buy your way into office. Republicans refuse to cooperate with democrats in the office, because the gop hates losing their bid for office, after spending billions of other peoples money.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Reply
  48. Longtooth

    OK, I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the US. You can donate to me through CNN. Whoever gives me the most money will have my undying loyalty, and I will say whatever they want to hear. Please use no bills smaller than the Benjamins. Washingtons are too hard to count.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Reply
  49. AllThatsLeft

    No they will just call it by a different name. In 2004 they were called 512's now they are basically the same but called super PACs. They need to just call it what it is, bribery...

    February 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  50. Wonderfool

    No, nothing will change as long as more money goes to GOP and we have GOP kingmakers in the Supreme Court.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Reply
  51. Coriolana

    Coming soon: the most cut-rate government money can buy.

    February 10, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Reply
    • Chris

      Don't you mean cut-throat?

      February 10, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Reply
  52. Mark Friedemann

    Erin, your story on the superpacs focused on the wrong issue. The money is outrageous, true, but the real travesty and danger is the fact that there is NO transparency regarding where the contribution comes from. The supreme court has allowed secret contributions from potential enemies of our country to filter into our system and potentially influence the outcome of our elections. This includes money from foreign corporations, foreign countries, and potentially foreign agents of non-state aggressors. I call this outrageous !

    February 9, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Reply
    • AmesIA

      Anonymous lies broadcast to millions. What's wrong with that?

      February 10, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply

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