You can be a Super PAC
By Jim Surber
Would you like to start your very own Super PAC (political action
committee)? Then you can collect millions of dollars in contributions
and spend it on behalf of political candidates that are sympathetic to
your own personal issues, or against those who are not.
It’s a whole lot easier than you may think, thanks to a popular
late-night comedian and our US Supreme Court who has ruled that money
is speech and that corporations are people.
Super PACs are described as “non-commercial political action
committees” by the bureaucrats at the Federal Elections Commission
(FEC). PACs have been around since the late 1970s, after the Supreme
Court decision in Buckley v. Valeo which ruled that money is a form of
free speech and that private individuals have the right to promote
political causes using their own funds. But individuals were limited to
donations of $5,000 and corporations didn’t have the same free speech
rights as individuals. That changed with the more recent “Citizens
United” decision which removed the financial limit and opened the game
Stephen Colbert of the Comedy Central network started his own PAC
called “Americans For a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” and was so
successful he has carried the thought to the next level. For much of
the past year, Colbert has been using his show to poke fun at the
Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which eventually led to the
creation of Super PACs. A few weeks ago, he unveiled the “Colbert Super
PAC Super Fun Pack” which is a complete do-it-yourself kit with
instructions and forms for anyone to easily and legally form their own
Political Action Committee and file the necessary four-page paperwork
with the Federal Elections Commission.
One thousand kits were produced, and all were sold for $99 each within
a week, mostly to college students, consistent with Colbert’s stated
intent to make the next generation’s voices heard on the national
stage. His website describes that the kits provide everything people
need to form their own Super PACs: Federal Election Commission
paperwork, filing instructions, an allen wrench, and a small canned ham
that resembles Karl Rove.
Danny Ben-David, a freshman at MIT, was one of the first to form his
own Super PAC, after securing FEC approval in March. “I was just
sitting in my dorm room one night and said ‘Oh hell, why not?’ It was
almost frustratingly easy,” the physics-major said. “The whole process
took just a few hours, and the trickiest part was opening a bank
account to accept funds which is an FEC requirement. It cost no more
than a 44 cent stamp and 5 pieces of paper,” Ben-David, according to
FEC documents, is now the president and grand poobah of ZoidPAC?
As president, Ben-David now can accept unlimited sums of money from
corporations, unions, associations and individuals. Just like the
professional political operatives who run most Super PACs, he can spend
unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates.
He’s not the only college kid with this power and joins about 300 other
It is easy to conclude that the enabling of these money machines by the
Supreme Court confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that our system is
corrupt. It used to be that you could delude yourself into believing
that the system was fair - that’s gone now.
If most Americans had their way, Super PACs would be gone tomorrow. But
getting around a Supreme Court decision is tricky business, and many
think the only solution is to pass a constitutional amendment banning
the undue influence of money in elections. Good luck with that solution.
There are logical arguments against the ruling that corporations are
people. To name a few, “If companies are people, why can one company
buy another company?” “If money is speech, the poor have no voice.” And
my favorite, “I’ll believe that corporations are people after the state
of Texas executes one.”
Has our democracy now finally been sold to the highest bidder? Is this
a logical and expected result when legislators completely abandon
common sense to maintain barriers to compromise and workable ideas? Are
today’s requirements to win elections scare-tactics, meaningless
slogans, sound bites and budgets that defy the laws of arithmetic?
Many candidates and incumbents definitely need as much money as
possible to hide their shortcomings behind smoke and mirrors, while
hoping that the voters are not sharp enough to see through the gimmicks
that get them elected and re-elected. Do we deserve this system that we
all have helped to create?
On the other hand, there are many who believe it fitting and proper for
these corporations to be exercising “First Amendment” rights in a
country where we are free to speak our mind, as opposed to living in
countries where political speech is tightly controlled and violators
are prosecuted and jailed.
A few things are certain: Our nation is foundering under the current
political-governmental insanity, fueled and perpetuated by huge-money
Super Pacs, and with “public servants” performing virtually full-time
fund raising. We are becoming more of an ignorant and apathetic
populace with a military Juggernaut that cannot be controlled, a debt
we can also never control (much less pay down), and a third-world
educational system with colleges producing new classes of
indentured servants who cannot secure employment.
Putting unlimited sums of money into elections is no laughing matter,
but maybe it takes a comedian to point out a major flaw in a very
flawed system. While Colbert’s PAC may be tongue-in-cheek, its
existence has shown how people with much uglier reasons to influence
the system can easily do the same.