SuperPAC? SuperPAC? What SuperPAC?

Author: Barrett Rainey

Many editors have told me “never lead a column or a story with a question.” “Poor form,” they said. So, I’ll put the stodgy editorial advice in the lead and the lead in the next paragraph.

Did you know four in ten Americans say they’ve never heard of a SuperPAC? “Nothing at all” were the words in the results of a Washington Post/Pew Research survey summary. Here we have the largest cancerous growth on the body politic since Jim Crow voting laws and 40% of us have “never heard” of this billionaire threat to democracy? Really?


Another 35% said they’d heard “very little” about SuperPACs. Nine-percent said SuperPAC was the committee in Congress working on the budget deficit. Another four-percent said it was a term for cleaning up hazardous waste sites while one-percent said a SuperPAC was a “video game for smart phones.” If you’ve ever watched Jay Leno’s interviews on the street, none of this is likely a shock.

You and I know what SuperPACs are. But for those who may’ve been surfing the I-Net and ended up here by mistake – SuperPACS are so- called “independent” political action committees composed primarily of the very, very rich and their corporations, able to pour unlimited millions of dollars into our electoral system while remaining anonymous and unaccountable. Nobody has to identify participation or have the guts to admit what they’re doing. Secret, well-heeled attempts to bend democracy to their particular mindset – most of which seems to be antithetical to the rest of us. And it’s legal ‘cause the U.S. Supreme Court says so.

Now, here’s the kicker! Those were “prompted” responses. In other words, the questioner gave the respondent those choices from which to chose. Suppose the question had been asked with no choices offered. Just “What is a SuperPAC?” Given the outcome here, can you even imagine what the results of that sort of exercise might have been?

I’ve long believed Americans are the most poorly educated populace about their own government of all industrial or developed nations i.e. courts – laws – elections – candidates – government structure – etc. The evidence is overwhelming. Unless the next pickup payment is threatened or someone tells a landowner he can’t do something with his property, Americans have been proven time and time again to possess a high level of ignorance about the system under which they live. Everybody has an opinion. But far too many lack an adequate knowledge of civics to back it up.

Indeed, recent national elections – and often legislative – have seated many folks who have absolutely no idea what the Hell to do once the election is over. “Now I are one and here I am” seems sufficient for some. Look no further than the “Class of 2010″ in our Congress.

The most trusted guess I’ve found of how much the SuperPACs have paid into the national elections -as of the first of the month – comes to more than $150 million. Since SuperPACs operate with great secrecy and financial reporting requirements are foggy at best, no one really knows for sure.

One thing we do know because there are requirements for advertising disclosure. Last week – just last week alone – $50 million was spent on ad buys for the presidential sweepstakes – $50 million in seven days! The saturation of mostly negative ads in markets in swing states is sickening. In fact, video stores are doing very well in Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. So are the cable and satellite pay channels as residents try to escape the noise and lies.

So, according to the results in this poll – and many, many others – voters are not only not being educated about candidates and issues, they’re actually being force-fed an around-the-clock diet of phony claims and propaganda. Anger and fear they may already feel is on an electronic diet of steroids of misinformation.

Buried in that Washington Post/Pew poll was a bit of information that didn’t make the headline but it caught my eye. While not being sure – or not even knowing – what a SuperPAC is, just over half said they didn’t think SuperPACs had helped one presidential candidate over the other. I agree.

Think what that could mean for a moment. It may be – sweet irony of sweet ironies – that all the of the millions being secretly spent to undercut our democracy may not be making a major difference. Just over half the respondents – well-versed in our government or ignorant of how it works – say they think the self-serving billionaire excesses aren’t changing people’s minds.

Now wouldn’t that just be a kick in your old Supreme Court?

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