Massachusetts Senate Race Still Steers Clear Of SuperPAC Interference (Mostly)

from the good-for-them dept

I'd meant to write about this back when it was first announced, but the story got lost in the sea of unwritten stories around here. But with On The Media providing an update, I can revisit it. There's been lots of talk this election season about the rise of SuperPACs and their ability to take unlimited funds and advertise for (or against) political candidates, so long as the candidates don't "coordinate" with the SuperPAC (with "coordination" defined rather loosely). Many of the really nasty attack ads often come from those SuperPACs. However, up in Massachusetts the two major party Senate candidates surprised a lot of people by calling a "truce" back in January against SuperPACs. The way the "pledge" works, is that each candidate agrees if a SuperPAC runs an ad attacking the other one, they'll donate half the ad's costs to a charity within a few days. While the suspicious among you might think that this would lead a SuperPAC to run counteradvertising against the candidate it likes to force the other side to pay up, in reality, it appears to have mostly worked, with very little SuperPAC money showing up in Massachusetts and the TV ads not being nearly as nasty, despite it being a close fight.

Of course, some SuperPACs can't resist. Last week, Brown's campaign admitted that it had donated over $35,000 after SuperPACs had put out ads supporting him, against his own wishes. But those were fairly minor from the sound of it. On the whole, compared to other similar races, the lack of SuperPAC funding has meant a (slightly) more reasonable campaign, with not quite as much smearing.

The obvious question, then, is will other candidates in other races agree to the same kind of pledge? Unfortunately, as the OTM segment notes, that's unlikely. In most cases, SuperPAC money really benefits one party over the other, and no one wants to give up such a major advantage, even if voters think they're really annoyed by negative advertising. Tragically (from a human nature perspective), it still seems like such ads have an impact. That's really too bad on multiple levels. It would be nice if we, as a country, actually moved to a more civilized electoral process. It just seems unlikely to actually happen.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 4:20pm

    If the SuperPAC's are staying out of it, as the candidates want, then isn't that evidence of "coordination"?

     

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      Vog (profile), Sep 4th, 2012 @ 4:56pm

      Re:

      Honestly, it doesn't sound any different from the "coordination" that happens normally. "True" fans will do what they perceive to be in their idol's best interests - sit, stay, sic 'em, maybe even heel.

      It's at least plausible to believe the SuperPACs would refrain from showing ads if they're going to harm their own candidates as a result.

       

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    Jay (profile), Sep 4th, 2012 @ 4:29pm

    Campaign finance

    If anyone truly wants to follow campaign finance, you should check out Andy Kroll's article Follow the Dark Money

    While it doesn't get into all of the nitty gritty of donations (Watergate is far larger than I'm sure Kroll knew) the fact of the matter is that we've needed a number of laws since the 1974 Bucky v Valeo decision that decimated our public financing decision. I'm sure that there will be a lot of people that can consider themselves liberal or conservatives, but when you look at what people have gone through to fight for what people consider reasonable, you can see that campaign finance law is a fight for control of a message.

     

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    Jason, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 4:46pm

    I don't get it

    Eirher we have free speech or we don't. Limits and rules on how much citizens are allowed to speak about the politics of their nation, wether on their own or as a group are in a word, bullshit.

     

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      Jay (profile), Sep 4th, 2012 @ 5:09pm

      Re: I don't get it

      So you truly believe that money is speech?

       

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        Jason, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 6:32pm

        Re: Re: I don't get it

        Yes.

        The people who made the movie that was the at the heart of citizens united were just a group of people who pooled their money to get their ideas out.

        They were not some hyper-evil corporation.

        If printing pamphlets (costs money) is free speech, then making a movie is free speech, speaking from a soapbox is free speech, blogging is free speech, and yes even press releases from companies is free speech.

        I think that far more evil than, "oh my God big corporations have free speech," is "we need to block what they say to make our message more prominent."

        When did "I disagree with what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it," become something many of the current citizens of this country do not really believe in?

         

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          Jay (profile), Sep 4th, 2012 @ 6:40pm

          Re: Re: Re: I don't get it

          My suggestion to you is to look at my link to "Follow the Money"

          Money should be regulated, not accepted as people believe.

          When the Watergate scandal broke, it was in regards to corruption at the highest levels (Nixon).

          Money truly corrupts when it changes our politics. I have a very strong suspicion that Obama is using his political office to appease Hollywood in various ways.

          This is the result of Lewis Powell's memo in the 70s and considering how the US fought to keep corporations in check, I believe wholeheartedly that giving them free speech rights leads to a fascist government, not more democracy.

           

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            Beech, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 6:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I don't get it

            As much as I don't like it, I am OK with it if Obama is trying to make life easier for Hollywood because he thinks it's what's best for the country. My problem is when Obama tries to appease them in exchange for support for his campaign.

             

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      Beech, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 6:52pm

      Re: I don't get it

      Here's my view. This should be allowed:

      1) Company wants one political to win more than the other one.
      2) Company tells the public so.
      3) Public may or may not take company's opinion under advisement when voting.

      There should be nothing stopping a company from speaking freely about the political process. The sad thing is how it actually works:

      1) Typically, money spent on a campaign means more votes earned.
      2) Politicians become truly desperate for every dollar they can find to help ensure getting maximum votes.
      3) Companies provide money in exchange for favors (either implicitly or implied, now or later).

      The problem with companies being able to spend unholy amounts of moolah on politicians is that in the end it looks a LOT like bribery...mainly because that's what it is. If the RIAA thinks Obama/Biden is their best chance to get laws they like, they should TOTALLY be able to write a blog, tweet a tweet, write some emails, etc. What they should NEVER be allowed to do is say, imply, threaten, etc. anything along the lines of "Hey Obama/Biden, we're glad you got elected. Hey, remember all that money we dumped into your campaign funds and SuperPACS for you? Well we want a couple new laws. Oh, by the way, here's another campaign contribution. So anyway, yeah. New laws. And further contributions may be postponed til we get what we want."

      Free speech is one thing, outright bribery is another.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 5:07pm

    So much money being wasted and I haven't seen one damn ad. Another beautiful benefit of cord cutting;)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 5:18pm

    FWIW, Elizabeth Warren, a "minority" law professor at HLS (Volokh has a slew of posts about her "minority" status) who is running against Scott Brown (the incumbent) in Massachusetts, is the person behind the phrase "You didn't do it" that has riled many business owners.

     

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      Jay (profile), Sep 4th, 2012 @ 7:35pm

      Re:

      Which she got from Benjamin Franklin who believed in building roads and bridges along with John Locke and Thomas Jefferson...

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 7:36pm

      Re:

      I don't follow American politics, so I had to research what this AC was talking about.

      The phrase is "You didn't build it", and in context is "You didn't build it on your own". IE: Taxes provided for the roads, the cops, the everything else that helped you build your business, the point being "part of the social contract is that you take a hunk of that success and pass it on for the next guy"

      Obama took part of that, "You didn't build it", and that was taken out of context by the GOP, as one might expect. AC is taking it even more out of context by changing it again to "You didn't do it" -_-

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2012 @ 9:30pm

        Re: Re:

        If you followed US politics you would quickly realize that soundbites by all political parties are the norm, and context is generally ignored. I have to believe the same is true in most other countries having competing political parties vying for votes.

        What makes the general tenor of the soundbite, even in context, insulting to some is that it is really a poorly disguised appeal to impose a tax increase on those higher up on our "financial ladder". In other words, "You have been successful because others gave you a hand, and, thus, it is only just that you start paying your fair share of taxes." Those to whom this "fair increase" would apply already pay just shy of 70% of all income taxes. If history teaches us anything it is that the definition of "well off" has an unerring tendency to creep downward, virtually assuring that in short order even those of much lesser means would also find themselves on the receiving end of a tax increase. What makes all of this even more pernicious is that many of the "well off" comprise corporations and the like, the very groups that create employment opportunities, precisely the opposite of what should be done when an economy is in the doldrums.

        Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party candidate for a seat in the US Senate, chastised the "better off" by saying at a campaign stop that those who are "better off" got there because of public infrastructure (schools, roads, buildings, etc.) that "the rest of us paid for". One would expect that a law professor at Harvard would understand that those who have started businesses and succeeded are an integral part of "us", likewise having paid taxes for such infrastructure.

        While I recognize that some may disagree, I believe our society is ill served by those trying to foster an environment of class envy in a craven attempt to sway voters to vote for them, and especially now as we attempt to turn around our economy.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 4:02am

          Re: Re: Re:

          >just shy of 70% of all income taxes.

          Ah, I see, you're a shill or an idiot.


          No one in the US, no company in the US, pays anywhere close to 70% even when we consider BRF, ("A term,", he gleefully mentions, "that accountants have almost completely forgotten because nobody pays it and it's not a useful number").

          Indeed, the highest BRF right now is 38%, (that's on the top 1%, btw), but tax shelters & expensive accountants bring this down to an average of 10%, (Which is lower than everyone else who makes more than $10,000/yr.).

          Besides which, history tells us that the best taxation rate for the US, (the most prosperous age, economically), was when that tax rate was 91%.

           

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            Jason, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 5:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Way to confuse tax rate with percent of total taxes collected....

             

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              Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 5:32am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Oh geez, you're right >Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic Party candidate for a seat in the US Senate, chastised the "better off" by saying at a campaign stop that those who are "better off" got there because of public infrastructure (schools, roads, buildings, etc.) that "the rest of us paid for". One would expect that a law professor at Harvard would understand that those who have started businesses and succeeded are an integral part of "us", likewise having paid taxes for such infrastructure


              But they aren't the only ones who paid for such infrastructure, and if you're at the present moment, you're missing both the past and the future. Guess where we were before infrastructure?

              Right, we were all pretty bad off. And we all paid to make that infrastructure, ESPECIALLY roads, electricity, and communications. (Private infrastructure tends to make private profit; see bridges, some fibre, (most of it is paid for at least partially with gov't grants, thus why the cablecos are often required to carry each others signals), logistics networks, shipping networks, etc.)

              At the current moment, only some people, (well, families, this is a generation crossing thing), have profited from that public infrastructure. The rest of us . . . still poor.

              Whether or not you like it, paying forward continues to be part of the social contract.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 5:33am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                What happened to that formatting? Yeez

                 

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                Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 5:34am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                A whole part of my post got swallowed by the deeps. By which I mean mysterious formatting.

                That's cool; what got swallowed wasn't that important.

                 

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                Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 7:29am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Everyone to varying degrees benefits from public infrastructure. But to use that as a misleading talking point in trying to support a tax increase because a group as a whole has created something by their labors diminishes the value this group, big and small, has contributed to our economy. Of course, in the vernacular of Washington, DC, only a "tax increase" can be called a "tax cut". This is dishonesty at it worst.

                 

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            Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 7:20am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Rather that default to claiming one is a "shill or an idiot", it is helpful to read a comment for comprehension.

            The mention of about 70% reflects the percentage a particular class of income earners pay as a total of all income taxes collected in any given year. The most recent data readily available is for 2009, and reflects that those with an AGI in the order of about $200K and up collectively pay an amount that drawfs what is paid the by remainder taxpayers. Even more telling, the top 50% of earners pay approximately 98% of all income tax revenue received by the US Government.

            It seems to me that you are confusing individual marginal tax rates with the total percentage of federal income tax revenue collected from specific groups.

             

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    Ninja (profile), Sep 5th, 2012 @ 3:58am

    Ah, now we know what sponsors TD usual critics. Should we call them superpactards?

     

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    jadamslsmo (profile), Sep 5th, 2012 @ 8:01am

    Teaching moment for my 10 yr old

    My son doesn't generally talk about the political ads on TV, but he's heard mine and my wife's disgust of them. He is, however, subjected to political ads that precede YouTube videos that we don't see.
    He asked me, "Why is ??? running for office when he did this bad thing while in office before?" I explained that as a paid ad, the opponent can say just about anything they like as long as it is not an outright lie.
    My son competes in a swimming league. He has more enthusiasm than skill and it shows in the scores. I told him that I could go around and just tell people he DQ'd three events last weekend and not say another word. The look on his face told me I hit home with that example.
    I'm not so sure there's much I can do fight the political establishment. What I can do is teach my child that not all is as it seems. It is up to him to find out if there's more to the story/statement/candidate than what is in the ad.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 5th, 2012 @ 8:19am

      Re: Teaching moment for my 10 yr old

      Time well spent as a parent, with an additional observation that attempts to generate "class envy" is destructive to our nation.

      Quite frankly, I generally tend to make my decisions about persons vying for office based upon my view of what comprises "character", with reputation for honesty being perhaps the most important. I may disagree with one's political views, but at least one who meets my "character" test is deserving of my fair consideration.

       

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