Citizens United Strikes Again!


superpacWhile not yet an announced candidate for 2016, Jeb Bush is reportedly breaking new ground for how a campaign will be run. If he follows through, this will change things forever. His idea, widely reported in the press, is to delegate much of what campaign organizations traditionally do to his super PAC, Right to Rise. This will skirt very closely to the prohibition against coordination between a campaign and outside organizations, but with discipline he might pull it off.

In essence, the official campaign will concentrate on activities that require the direct participation of the candidate. Essentially anything else could be delegated, like phone banks, get out the vote operations, direct mail, TV advertising, etc. The advantage is money. The super PAC can raise unlimited cash from people, corporations, and advocacy groups, and its reporting requirements are illusory. The strictly limited campaign can then undertake activities that are less expensive. The difficulty is to avoid conflict between these parallel organizations and to present a cohesive message. However, from what I hear about the way staffing is planned, this has a real chance of succeeding. Law suits are likely but at the worst Bush can delay them in the already sluggish courts until their effects are moot.

This is the logical consequence of the Citizens United decision, which opened the spigots of unrestricted campaign money by corporations, unions, and other such associations. If it succeeds, others might try it this time but everyone will in 2020 and beyond. We will see campaigns run directly by the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, and the like. In a sense, this is more open and forthright than the current farcical masquerade that pretends that super PACs are independent expressions of citizen participation. But it also exposes Citizens United for what it does to our political system, and perhaps that might lead to reining it in. I hope so.