In September 2010, President Obama hit the nail on the head when he called SuperPAC a threat to our democracy.
Thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision... special interest groups ... are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on attack ads. They don’t even have to disclose who’s behind the ads. You’ve all seen the ads. Every one of these groups is run by Republican operatives. Every single one. Even though they’re posing as non-profit groups.
With names like Americans for Prosperity, the Committee for Truth in Politics, or Americans for Apple Pie. I mean ah, you know, I made that last one up. But this is why – look, this is why we’ve got to work even harder in this election. This is why we’ve got to fight their millions of dollars with millions of our voices. Voices that are ready to finish what we started in 2008.
But that was two years ago, when he didn’t need one himself.
How things change. Now Obama has one of his own, and his campaign has decided to throw their support behind it, with key operatives showing up at events and urging people to send it their fundraising dollars. After all, after the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, money is speech and corporations are people. War might also be peace and freedom might be slavery, but we are still working on that. And right now, it is imperative that “people” get to use their first amendment right to “speak” as much in this election as possible, by donating to candidates’ SuperPACs.
Sure, speech is speech too. But so is money, and money makes for better commercials.
The only thing about SuperPACs that is innocuous is their names. The goal, I think, is to sound vaguely like a country album you purchased in the 1980s. Restore Our Future? American Crossroads? Make Us Great Again? Red White and Blue Fund? Our Destiny? They are ingratiatingly innocuous in the officious way of retirement homes – “Shady Lane’s End Rest” — and preschools — “Happy Little Lion Play-Place Nursery” — that you suspect must be hiding suspect activities. No one’s name sounds that perky unless he is up to something.
Winning Our Future? Endorse Liberty? FreedomWorks for America? Priorities USA Action? Leaders For Families? Strong America Now? Americans For A Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Stephen Colbert’s joke PAC, blends right in.
Colbert’s satire of the awful behemoths with a SuperPAC of his own was brilliant. But clearly it wasn’t enough. Now Obama’s officially caved. Don’t turn the other cheek. Fight fire with fire and money with even more money!
This is how it starts. Your neighbor buys an attack dog. Several months later, when the dust settles you both have rocket launchers and are militarizing your infants.
Mixing politics with unlimited amounts of money is like mixing anything with unlimited amounts of money – a bad idea. Mix interior design with unlimited amounts of money and you get homes with golden cantilevers and pianos made from elephants who are still alive. Mix child-rearing with unlimited amounts of money and you get Paris Hilton. Mix Kim Kardashian with unlimited amounts of money, and you get a scourge that still ravages our nation’s televisions.
Politics is already a confounding business – a lover of the law or of good sausage, they say, should not watch either being made. Mix it with money, and eventually by a complex alchemy you wind up with President Donald Trump.
This threatens to make a grotesque joke of our system. (“After Citizens United, I was walking down the street with my friend, and he would not shut up! So I stole his wallet.”) Not that sort of grotesque joke, a far worse kind.
I’m embarrassed and disappointed by the President’s decision. As someone who rose to stardom on the power of a few well-chosen words, you’d think he’d have more faith in them.
But why bother with voices when you have money?
Words can be speech. But cash speaks so much louder.