Monday, May 7, 2012

Super PACs: The antidote to corruption?

The Denver Post has an interesting story today about the motives of some of those who are donating to super PACs this year. In particular, note this section:
"I wish we could be more honest about it," said Paul Zecchi, a CEO of an oil-and-gas company who donated $25,000 to Romney's PAC in March. "Super PACs are just another way to give money to Mitt Romney or Obama or whatever. I wish there was a way to just do it out in the open and give to the candidate."
Zecchi has given to his candidate's campaign. But federal election law allows individuals to donate a maximum of $2,500 per election cycle, which means donors can give $2,500 in a primary and another $2,500 for the general election. Individuals can also give $30,800 to a national party committee.
For the donation, Zecchi joked that it would be great to get an invite to the inauguration. But he says what he really wants is a future President Romney's ear.
"We certainly would like to be able to sit down with him on a one-on-one basis and tell him our feelings about what's going on in our business and the economy," he said. "If you're just listening to bureaucrats all day long, you're not going to be hearing from any one person. But me and my friends could relay to him what we see."
So here's a person who donates precisely because he wants a quid pro quo; he wants to give Romney a ton of money and he wants Romney to remember where the money came from so he can ask a favor later. But limits on direct donations make that hard, so he's donating to a super PAC. That's still helpful for Zecchi's purposes, but because his donations are being pooled with so many others, he'll get less credit for the donation. Zecchi can still help his chosen candidate, but he's less likely to be rewarded for the effort.

I'm not going to champion super PACs as the cure for campaign finance corruption, but this is a perspective we don't often hear.


metrichead said...

Okay, I'm either stupid or lost.

How can Bill Maher give $1 million to President Obama's SuperPAC if this guy can only give $5,000 (primary and general), and $30,000 to the RNC?

dmarks said...

Campaign donations could probably be limited and regulated. But spending on campaign advertising is protected by the First Amendment. In fact, that is the main reason we have that in our Constitution: to protect the rights of the people to speak out on political issues and criticize those in power.

We would do well to remember what brought about the case in Citizens United: a few Americans decided to make a film critical of a US senator. Under McCain-Feingold. these people were criminals for daring to do so. That's rather outrageous no matter how you look at it.