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On Tuesday, Mitt Romney decried the role of super PACs in the upcoming election, calling the independent expenditure committees created in the fallout of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision “disastrous.” Meanwhile the super PAC set up to support his candidacy wages war against primary rival Newt Gingrich in Iowa.
Super PACs are explicitly prohibited from coordinating with candidates, however, inaction by the Federal Election Commission and candidate audacity has made the reality of non-coordination rules a paper thin barrier.
In spite of the rules, many super PACs, including those supporting Romney, Gingrich and President Obama, are run by candidates’ former campaign officials and/or staff, often feature their favored candidates as speakers at fundraisers, and some even sponsor advertisements starring their candidates reading scripts written by the super PACs themselves.
Gingrich claimed Monday night that he would publicly denounce and tell his donors not to donate to any super PAC that goes negative on his behalf. If he is serious when he calls super PACs a “nightmare”, he should take that pledge a step further.
The current coordination rules are an insult to American democracy, yet candidates continue to test their luck in weakening them further. If the presidential contenders, all of whom have sympathetic Super PACs, are serious about their objections, then they should:
1. Publicly denounce their affiliated independent expenditure committees,
2. Ask their friends who run them to step down,
3. Dissuade their donors from contributing to them, and,
4. Refuse to participate in Super PAC fundraisers and advertising campaigns.
Anything less amounts to a wink and a nod.
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U.S. PIRG is the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups. State PIRGs are non-profit, non-partisan public interest advocacy groups that take on powerful interests on behalf of their members. On the web at uspirg.org
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