It is said that money talks, and indeed, individuals with great wealth want to influence this year’s election to serve their own purposes: Enter the Super PAC. Super Political Action Committees (super PACs) are a new paradigm in campaign finance that has arisen out of the controversial Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court case in 2010. The effect of the Court’s decision is that individuals, or individuals grouped together into super PACs, may spend as much money as they please on advertisements and other forms of speech in support of (or, as Newt Gingrich certainly found out, in opposition to) candidates for political office. To maintain the integrity of the campaign process, candidates are strictly forbidden by law from interacting or otherwise cooperating with their friendly super PAC in any way, and donations to the candidates’ campaigns proper still may not exceed the limit of $2,500 per donor.
Some have claimed that super PACs are stealing the election and placing the outcome of the race into the hands of a few old men in a smoke-filled room. However, the question of the legality of super PACs is not one of influence in elections, but rather one of free speech. Theoretically, a super PAC could be formed for virtually any purpose, even ones unrelated to political campaigns. A super PAC could run television and newspaper advertisements in support of a certain view on climate change, foreign policy, etc. The funders of any super PAC are simply using their wealth to purchase air time and ad slots, a process that is unquestionably fair. No one complains when a corporation buys a full-page ad in the New York Times to show off their latest product, and yet liberals cry foul when a conservative super PAC buys a similar ad slot to attack the president’s failed policies. The President has no one to blame but himself for the millions (likely billions) of dollars that are now being bundled into super PAC arsenals that shall be unleashed upon him in the coming months, for Barack Obama has undoubtedly been the most anti-business and anti-wealth president in American history. The upper class and corporations are overwhelmingly siding with Mitt Romney in this election, not because Romney is one of their own or because he will favor them over other interest groups, but because he has not made an enemy out of wealth and Wall Street. Romney correctly realizes that the only way to heal this economy is to unleash the potential of capitalism and businesses, both big and small.
Beyond political matters lies the true reason why, should all else prove to be unpopular, super PACs must be allowed. The actions that super PACs take are actions of free speech, which is a right protected by the Constitution. “Free speech” does not necessarily have to be speech that is productive or well-liked. Saying to a group of wealthy donors, “You people cannot mention a candidate or anything related to the presidential election in your ad buys” is simply a suppression of free speech (something the Supreme Court correctly noted in the Citizens United case). What a person, as an individual acting of their own free will and separate from any official candidate or political party, chooses to expound upon in the media on advertisement time that they legally purchased is at their own discretion. Whether they use that opportunity to attack a candidate, support a candidate, or whatever else they like is their own decision. So yes, due to the free and capitalistic nature of the media and advertising markets, wealth increases one’s ability to practice more free speech. However, should you see a super PAC ad you dislike, you should just change the channel, flip the newspaper page, and move on with your life.