The 2016 presidential campaigns of the major parties have something depressing in common: Candidates rely far too much on largely unregulated and unlimited funding by mega-donors, via super political action committees. Super PACs supposedly operate independently of candidates’ campaigns, to which they don’t contribute directly.
They are subject to public reporting requirements for spending, and must identify donors who give more than $200. In reality, though, single-candidate super PACs are vehicles for big contributors — rich individuals, corporations and unions — to bankroll the politicians who win their favor, virtually without limit. They are run by close associates of the candidates and already have largely supplanted candidates’ formal campaign committees, which must limit donations from individual contributors to just $5,000 per election cycle. The notion that candidates’ campaigns do not coordinate with the super PACs that back them is nonsense. Aides to GOP candidate Jeb Bush say his campaign will rely on a super PAC to perform such tasks as buying TV ad time and planning direct-mail efforts. Democrat Hillary Clinton says she is likely to lean on a super PAC for broadcast and online advertising. Such evident abuses of the spirit, if not the letter, of federal campaign finance regulation would seem to be fertile territory for debate. A bill before the House would bar the coordination, overt or covert, of candidates’ campaign committees with super PACs. It is likely to die, not only because it is sponsored by Democrats who lack influence in Congress, but also because lawmakers want to protect their money-raising machines. A California political boss of a bygone era, Jesse Unruh, defined money as “the mother’s milk of politics.” Today, super-big money is poisoning the body politic, and the people who are in the best position to change that are the greatest beneficiaries of the corrupt system. That’s why the coming presidential campaign inspires a sense of dread. From Tribune News Service.