Election 2012 Super PAC: Stephen Colbert Loses Staffer to Rick Perry Campaign


Both parties have accepted anonymous monetary contributions for 2012; liberals adopting the practice after denouncing it in 2010 amid losses in the midterm elections.

Critics of the Super PAC strategy believe that the use of unlimited corporate and union money will corrupt the process even further. Former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin characterized the practice as "dancing with the devil" while speaking at Netroots Nation, and claimed that Democrats could still raise money without "without selling our soul."

Feingold lost his seat in 2010 to Republican Ron Johnson and has started his own political action committee, Progressives United, aimed at curbing corporate influence. His organization technically falls into the anonymous 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization category but is voluntarily choosing to disclose its donors.

Still, there are some who believe that the unlimited cash is good for Democracy. Brad Smith, chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, recounted the 2010 Super PAC experiment as a positive and one that unseated a large number of career politicians.

"I think that it makes those races more competitive," Smith said.

Incumbent politicians often spend their time raising large sums of money to scare off potential challengers. Many out-raised their challenger by a 10-to-1 ratio in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

As for whether Super PACs will survive in their current form, David Vance, a spokesman for the Campaign Legal Center, doesn't believe so.

Politicians will eventually act out of self-preservation, he said, enacting legislation in response to a hypothetical super-scandal involving donated money and that forces Washington to change the rules of the game.

"The stage is set for scandal in this election cycle," Vance said.

Corporate Donations Receiving More Attention

The most important thing Super PACs could provide is anonymity to corporations with deep pockets. With large corporate contributions come great responsibility, to their shareholders and customers who get wind of these political donations and can vote with their wallet.

Retail chain Target recently came under fire for supporting the Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota after gay rights activists drew attention to the monetary gift.

New Balance CEO Jim Davis also came under fire for a contribution made to the Romney campaign, public scrutiny forcing the company to distance itself from the CEO.

It especially hurts a company that has taken steps to market itself to portray a specific social agenda, said Jerry Swerling, who is the director for the Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.

Companies that promote themselves as going green, for example, could look hypocritical for then donating money to politicians who don't support strong environmental regulations.

"The line is disappearing between what you do politically and what you do on the consumer marketing side," Swerling said.

And perhaps executives have gotten the memo when it comes to forming a cohesive corporate political message. Starbucks' Schultz has pledged to stop all political contribution until Washington has come up with a plan to deal with nation's long-term debt problem.

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