Debate Club

Are Super PACs Harming U.S. Politics?

Are Super PACs Harming U.S. Politics?

A PAC, or political action committee, is the name given to any private group organized and funded with the goal of electing a political candidate or advancing a legislative agenda. The term “super PAC” (for groups officially known as “independent-expenditure only committees”) gained popularity in 2010 after the landmark Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The case was decided in a 5-4 vote, and the decision argued that, under the First Amendment, the government cannot prohibit independent spending by corporations and unions for political purposes. Soon afterward, the Federal Court of Appeals ruled in Speechnow.org v. Federal Election Commission that no limits could be placed on contributions to groups that only make independent expenditures. Super PACs are required to disclose their donors and are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates or agendas they advocate.

Since then, super PACs have started campaigns in support of particular agendas, most notably to back Republican presidential candidates. According to OpenSecrets.org, the pro-Romney super PAC Restore America has raised 12.2 million dollars this election cycle, and it released numerous advertisements in Iowa attacking Newt Gingrich. This week, the pro-Gingrich super PAC Winning Our Future released a 28-minute documentary-style video called When Mitt Romney Came to Town that attacks Romney’s business career at Bain Capital.

Proponents of super PACs argue that free speech is protected under the First Amendment, and they contend that it’s a fair system since candidates are not allowed to coordinate with them. Opponents disagree, and many are disturbed by predictions of upwards of $2 billion being spent by super PACs on the upcoming presidential election. They also hold that the non-coordination caveat is impossible to uphold and are upset by the proliferation of negative ads.

Are super PACs harming U.S. politics? Here’s the Debate Club’s take:


The Arguments

#1
184 Pts
Overturn Citizens United

Yes – Overturn Citizens United

Bernie Sanders Junior United States Senator from Vermont

#3
146 Pts
Super PACs Need to Disclose Political Activity

Yes – Super PACs Need to Disclose Political Activity

Danielle Brian Executive Director of the Project On Government Oversight

#4
-85 Pts
Super PACs Enhance Democracy

No – Super PACs Enhance Democracy

John Samples Director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato Institute

#5
-90 Pts
Super PACs Are a Form of Political Participation
#6
-95 Pts
Super PACs Level the Playing Field

No – Super PACs Level the Playing Field

Bradley A. Smith Chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics

#7
-101 Pts
Super PACs Engage in More Positive Than Negative Messaging

No – Super PACs Engage in More Positive Than Negative Messaging

Jennifer Marsico Senior Research Associate at the American Enterprise Institute


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