CHH Politics: Super PAC’s power overblown

Kwabena Boateng

“Money is the root of all evil.” This often-cited warning is actually misquoted. “The love of money is the root of all evil,” is the correct statement. When it comes to political campaign spending, people continue to use the first quote. 

Super PACs (Political Action Committees) are the latest reason why money is evil in politics. Organizations that were legally banned from directly giving money to a political candidate can now form Super PACs that pool money together to fund advertisements supporting or attacking a candidate. So a group can spend $100 million on attacking President Barack Obama, but they can’t directly give money to Mitt Romney. The names of donors and the amount given to these Super PACs have to be reported. Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just big business that forms Super PACs. The National Education Association and the Sierra Club have their own Super PACs.  

The hysteria over Super PACs is overblown. As government specialist Sam Garett reported to Congress, there is an “overstated impression of [Super PACs’] influence in federal elections.” Neil King Jr. of the Wall Street Journal found the same exaggeration when looking at congressional races.

In an Ohio Senate race, for example, the Democratic candidate still holds a big lead over the Republican candidate, despite $18 million of Super PAC-funded attack ads. In fact, Super PACs might have a negative influence by “competing with the [candidate’s] message” and confusing voters, King said. 

Even if a candidate heavily supported by a Super PAC wins, there is no guarantee that the candidate will support the Super PAC’s cause. A study by three MIT professors found “little relationship between money and legislator votes.” So money doesn’t always equal political votes. And this should be expected considering the many different interests vying for influence in D.C. 

The fear of money ruining politics does have a historical basis. A century ago it wasn’t uncommon for politicians to repay their funders by sharing the spoils of their victory. However, the situation isn’t nearly as bad now, with regulations on political spending and transparency on donors allowing greater safeguards.

If you want the source of the problem with money, look at the candidates. Obama and Romney have raised a combined total of $711.54 million, compared to Super PACs raising $390 million for both the presidential and congressional elections. The corrupting agent isn’t Super PACs. It is our politicians’ love of money.