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Monday, October 24, 2016

Republican Super PACs Serve As Bailout Fund For Troubled Senate Candidates

Some Republican Senate candidates are too big to fail.

Which is why GOP operatives are dumping millions of dollars in unaccountable campaign cash into competitive 2012 Senate races where their candidates have fallen behind Democratic opponents. Groups like the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS have already bought hundreds of TV ads in the key state of Ohio, where incumbent Senator Sherrod Brown is facing a less-than-inspired challenge from Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel.

This kind of bailout advertising blitz would not have been possible before 2010, when a trio of Supreme Court decisions reversed limits on political activity by a range of independent groups. Now, so called “Super PACs” and 501(c)(4) nonprofits — “social welfare organizations” that can accept unlimited amounts of money from anonymous donors as long they don’t use the majority of their cash on electioneering — like Crossroads can “sponsor ads that specifically advocate the election or defeat of a candidate,” according to Colby College campaign finance scholar Anthony Corrado.

An outspoken populist and unabashed progressive who served seven terms in the House before defeating Senator Mike DeWine in the Democratic wave year of 2006, Brown has proven an effective messenger on the economy in a major swing state where Republicans have long made inroads among the socially conservative white working class; they even won the governor’s mansion from a once-popular Democratic incumbent with broad bipartisan appeal in 2010. But an attempt to gut labor rights for public employees was just resoundingly rejected in a statewide referendum and has hurt the GOP’s chances going into next fall’s elections.

Brown, who is more popular than President Obama in the state, is the obvious favorite over Mandel, an untested 34-year-old whose campaign has been marked by blunders like illegally using photos from the Columbus Dispatch on his website, which he subsequently removed after being caught. According to the latest polls, Brown’s lead has expanded to 15 points.

Enter Karl Rove.

A year before the election, his Crossroads GPS group has already spent over half a million dollars airing television commercials attacking Brown for his liberal voting record and association with Barack Obama. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent over $1.5 million ripping Brown on the airwaves for raising energy taxes and voting for the health care reform law. The nonpartisan fact-check group Politifact called the ads “mostly false.”

“The Crossroads GPS ads are airing to make sure Senator Brown is held accountable for his record, which is far to the left of Ohio,” said Nate Hodson, a spokesman for the group.

The barrage is best understood as a response to Mandel’s weak standing with voters — and Sherrod Brown’s persona as a champion of labor and the working class.

“I think he is much like Elizabeth Warren in his ability and willingness to speak very directly about the Republican agenda, their philosophy, their support for the super-rich vis-à-vis the middle class,” said former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, whose failed 2010 re-election bid was damaged by early Super PAC spending. “He is not a wallflower and he does not sit idly by and let the right wing get by without being directly and effectively challenged.”

The comparison with Warren is telling, because it is she and Brown who have attracted more early Super PAC spending than any other Democrats in the country. Warren’s opponent, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, though perhaps a more able politician than Mandel, is in a tough position in a Democratic state and his seat, like that in Ohio, is vital to the Republicans’ hopes of taking back the Senate in the fall.

“American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, they’re looking to retake the Senate, and there’s four seats they need to do that,” said Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a good government group. “The idea with the early spending is you try to freeze in the public’s mind a negative image of a candidate, and also drive up name recognition of the challenger. In that sense, Super PACs play a huge role.”

It doesn’t hurt that Democrats like Warren and Brown are anathema to the Republican base.

“What these outside groups are looking at is, they want to pick up seats, but also knock out some of the people they really don’t like,” said Kyle Kondik, an analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It’s one thing to want to beat an incumbent. Of course Republicans want to beat Jon Tester in Montana, Claire McCaskill [in Missouri], but I think they would relish beating Brown a bit more. Also, I think Josh Mandel, the state treasurer in the race, is someone who national Republicans would like to boost up. Whether he’s ready for prime time is a totally different story.”

Crossroads GPS is the 501(c)(4) affiliate of American Crossroads, the Super PAC founded by Rove and other top Republican officials that spent nearly $40 million on Senate and House races in 2010.

This unregulated campaign finance environment harkens back to the Watergate era, when sustained public outrage produced some of the first major election reform laws in decades.

“What we have now is a situation where it is extremely easy for people with large amounts of money for shaping a congressional race to put it in early,” said Richard Briffault, a Columbia law professor who specializes in campaign finance. “The so-called independent money is increasingly less about ideology and more about targeting or helping — more commonly targeting — specific candidates. These are in effect shadow campaigns, maintaining a little bit of distance from campaigns because they have to do so legally, but basically being totally supportive, supporting or opposing a particular candidate.”

And the trend away from traditional campaign organizations toward these stealth operations will only continue as operatives learn to test the limits of the Federal Election Commission’s weakened enforcement powers.

“There’s still going to be limits on what people can give directly to candidates, which is why you’re seeing these shadow campaigns, these double campaigns,” added Briffault. “Increasingly the candidates’ campaigns will matter less and shadow campaigns will matter more.”

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Copyright 2012 The National Memo
  • Hankk

    Thanks to the Supreme tea-publican Court, the people lost there voice (freedom of speech) so that big money can control everything including rights to vote, ETC.
    We are quickly becomming a communist or dictatorial country, and the only way to avoid this is to get the truth out and back the Democratic Party with all we have. We the people have to take the USA back.

  • kurt.lorentzen

    This just shows the bandwagon mentality of political groupies. Democratic PACs do exactly the same thing, and there are no more seated Democrats who support campaign finance restrictions than their Republican counterparts.

  • tannerjacks

    I am not sure about political groupies……I am sure that congress is bought and paid for; the president is bought and paid for; and now, we have lost our last check and balance…….the press has been bought and paid for! I am not so sure about the third branch of the government….the supreme court may still have a little (and I say that little very carefully) integrity left. As a younger, less interested man, I wondered why the rich people always seemed to never have enough money…..I thought, shoot, isn’t 10 million dollars enough? Go retire, contribute or whatever it is you want to do, why do you need more money? Come to find out as I got older and more interested in why things are the way they are, MONEY IS POWER, POWER ALLOWS ONE TO CONTROL!!!! Greed and coruption are the norm in our government, our state and our country! It has become part of our lives and it grows when it is not put in check. Our LA police officers in the gang squad got caught keeping the $$$, guns and drugs they confiscated and were caught. New rules, the city demanded the existing officers on the gang squad turn over their bank account info and 3/4 of the squad quit on the spot! Just think if we had that insight into the congressional idiots we have ELECTED! And what about the 16 trillion dollars the Fed coughed up over the last 4 years all over the world that we would have never found out about and Bernanke fought tooth and nail to stop the audit? UNBELIEVABLE! Ron Paul may not be the answer…….and he is on our side!

  • CitizenX

    The “political groupies” also note that PACs affiliated with progressives and other Democrats have at best one-tenth the resources of those right-wingers’ PACs. The Court in its non-wisdom elminiated barriers that kept both unions and corporations from this kind of shadow campaigning; you “equivalency” nuts refuse to acknowledge the reality that for every dollar a union has to put into a campaign, Wall Street and Karl Rove’s other secretive backers have hundreds or thousands of dollars. It’s hardly a level playing field when one side has billions and the other tens of thousands. And believe it or not, there are many seated Democrats who support campaign finance restrictions, and I bet you can’t name ONE Republican who does.

  • 2UWrangler

    This is another example of why the PEOPLE of the UNITED STATES of AMERICA
    Must hold a constitutional convention and outlaw pacs and super-pacs
    The Supreme court sold out to big money, proving again, that justice like everything else in our current system is for “sale”
    First off, any 1st year law student (and some of us who aren’t)
    knows that a “coporation” is a “legal” person only in the sense that it protects the directors, and others who actually make up the corporation from lawsuits.
    Therefore, one can sue Exxon/Mobil corporation for example, and the board members et al personal assets are protected.
    No corporation can serve in the military, cannot register to vote, and even if “convicted” of crimes cannot serve time in jail.
    The Constitution of the United States must be amended to exclude pacs and/or superpacs from contributing any money at all for any political cause.
    ONLY individual citizens of the United States may make contributions and they should be limited to say 10,000.00$ and full disclosure must be made.
    Why not full disclosure? Standup for what you believe, anyone who wants to “hide”
    is up to no good.
    The other key amendment is to limit the President and Vice President to a single term of 9 years. Representatives to a single 5 year term, Senators to a single 7 year term.
    Representatives and Senators may run again only after they sit out for a term.
    Representatives and Senator MUST write their own bills (no lobbyist can write
    All amendments and riders attached to a bill must be germain to the original bill.
    Remove all perks and pension from representative, senators, and the president and vice president.
    The founding Fathers never intended for our elected PUBLIC SERVANTS to be royalty
    Yet that’s what has happened. We no longer have a Republic, we have an oligarchy.
    WE the PEOPLE MUST take back our government.

  • mrkelly.burch

    The Citizens’ case brought money to the fore in politics and Republicans stand to gain most because: 1) they have demonstrated unabashed and craven capacity to misrepresent virtually anything for ‘the cause’ 2) they have long been in the bed of the 1% who own them and write their checks
    3) They’ve revved up the propaganda machine thirty years ago to change the meme and now own it.

    These rips from the fringe claiming that “Both parties will do it” are not far from the naked apologists who state “the banks broke no laws” and “everyone did it” (They did and we all know it; so what? A free pass?)

    Grab the kind of blatant falsehood such as ‘WMDs in Iraq” as just one example how a LIE can change the entire course of human history and anyone can see that the irreparable harm awaiting us is catastrophic. Media is an impact on campaigns because it DOES currently influence how a large number of voters decide. Purchasing negativity, as opposed to relating a candidates’ qualities and positions is the entire purpose of Citizen’s United free spending. Swift Boaters of all colors have already emerged flaming not only the truth but our lifestyle in Iowa. (not that anyone ‘lives’ in Iowa)

    Two ways the media gains from this arrangement: 1) They make more money by airing ads 2) they gain more influence over our governing process by retaining that power.
    The way out is Amendment. Slow: yes. Effective: yes. Practical: yes. But this solution is far less certain as long as citizens continue to claim “They do it too!”
    Grow up, sit up straight, get a haircut, take out the trash, eat your peas and quit being a pantywaste, guys. Time to stop the finger pointing and act responsibly by being informed, being part of the process, taking a stand for democracy.

  • kurt.lorentzen

    Your comments both go toward the same thing I referred to. I am no apologist for either party. Nothing in my statement said PAC money is right or good (I strongly oppose it). You read into my comment what you wanted to see because of your ideology. From the center there’s plenty wrong with both parties. Both benefit from campaign finance donations from PACs. Neither turns down the money. So, now that you’ve accused me of being an apologist, I’ll save you my next rebuttal by replying in advance that Democratic candidates who “have to take the money” in order to compete with the right-wing PAC-funded candidates is equally as apologetic. I will rally with you in support of a Constitutional amendment that permits only individuals from contributing to political campaigns limited to $500/yr. if you will join with me in support of a balanced budget amendment! Shifting the wealth to a few is criminal. Equally so is a never-ending agenda of debt-financed programs.

  • JohnOO7

    PAC money is wasted if you consider the source. Critical thinking sometimes appears lost in America.. but PAC’s stuff has stink all around it.

  • jimmyags

    you mean the guy behind the swift boat veterans is running false ads in ohio? who would have thought it?