Heather Michon

Heather Michon
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Virginia,
Birthday
June 25
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Editor’s Pick
JANUARY 30, 2012 7:26AM

The People's Action Committee: A Super PAC Bucks The Trends

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With the presidential race looking like an un-dramatic Obama-Romney plod to November, the most memorable thing about Election 2012 may turn out to be anything but the candidates.

Instead, it seems poised to go down as The Year of the Super PAC.

Look the figures: Through last week, independent expenditure committees had spent over $34 million on the Republican primary candidates. That’s already three times more than candidates spent on the entire 2008 Republican primary season.

 

 0127floridaspending 

 Spending on Anti-Gingrich Ads in Florida are at almost $10 million (Source: Huffington Post) 

The avalanche of outside money is making political parties nervous, making candidates anxious, and just plain depressing the socks off rest of us.

But at least one of the hundreds of registered independent expenditure committees out there is trying to use the system in a different way, and maybe – just maybe – building a model for the future.

Meet Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Today, a Vermont-based Super PAC launched in December.

The name is a play on comedian Stephen Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. “We didn’t think people wanted to wait the extra day,” says Bob Stannard, the former Vermont legislator, activist, author and blues harp player who founded the PAC in coordination with KSE Partners, a lobbying firm based in Montpelier.

While the name may be tongue-in-cheek, the goal is dead serious. They want to highlight those issues and values brought into focus by the Occupy movement, among them progressive tax policies, clean energy development, the protection of collective bargaining rights and a system that doesn’t put college graduates into the world with $100,000 in student loan debt.

Super PACs generally align themselves with specific candidates, explains Todd Bailey, the group’s treasurer and main spokesperson in a phone interview last week. “We want this to be the People’s Action Committee.”

It’s a tall order in a world where casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife can give a pro-Gingrich Super PAC a $10 million cash infusion and help him win the South Carolina primary by 12 percentage points. (Depending how you calculate it, it may be the largest single donation in American campaign history.)

Stannard tells VtDigger.org that the sheer amount of money flooding the system is daunting, but ceding the field strikes him as unacceptable. In planning this organization, he says he and Bailey went through the process of acknowledging “OK, we may not like this, but shouldn’t we be participating? Either you use it to advance your agenda, or you just sit there and wish you had.”

Bailey notes that this PAC doesn’t have the Adelsons or the Koch Brothers on speed-dial – but that’s fine with him. “We’d rather than ten million people give us a dollar each.” While they certainly wouldn’t turn down a six-figure donation, there’s a lot of value those $10 and $20 contributions.

Their first ad, “Puppets of the One Percent,” aired during The Daily Show and Colbert Report in key South Carolina markets the day before that primary and got “a great response.” They hope to do the same with a fresh ads in upcoming primaries. Meanwhile, they’re looking for those progressive candidates they might want to support.   

And they also want to tackle what Bailey describes as “the fundamental flaw” with Super PACs: their utter lack of transparency. His firm is currently working on software that would publically disclose donor names within 24 hours of their donation.

There are some positive signs, even in the last few days, that 'Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Today' may be a day or two ahead of the curve.

Many politicians seem to be realizing that bloated, overzealous Super PACs hijack campaign messaging and anger the public, and some are looking for ways to grab back the reins. 

Consider the recent joint pledge between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren to limit outside influence in their battle for the Senate. Or that Congressional Democrats are poised to introduce a new version of the DISCLOSE Act, which failed by a single vote in 2010. Among its other provisions, DISCLOSE 2.0 would require more timely disclosure of donor names, and would require ads produced by these groups to list the names of their top five donors on each ad.

Impossible as it seems at the moment, this may be only Year of the Super PAC.

 

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Comments

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It's about time that there's a PAC for the rest of us. The way our political system has been bought and sold by and for the uber-wealthy is despicable.
Good luck to them. And thanks for the info.
Thanks for the info and i can say you really need luck
Essentially, we are allowing the election process to be hijacked by outside interests, which will buy the very thing that most of us are fighting against. Who is our David, who'll sling shot this one-eyed creepasaurus that allows us to stand there while our Congress feeds the damn thing.
Ever read Beowulf? I am in this parallel universe -- somehow ...
Want out like the kids in "HOSTEL".
The various memorable phenomena in the election of america was mentioned here which mainly highlights the overall the peace and satey election the history of america.
Paradise Valley homes for sale
Oh! The money special interest groups pour into the pockets of lawmakers - and administrators - is stunning.

I used to work for an organization which worked to counter some of the more readical environmental groups, it was an uphill battle. You can't beat the money they spend, so you just have to be louder than they are. Which is, I guess, why they hired me. :o)
The amount of money spent by special interest groups is staggering.

I used to work for a group which worked to counter some of the more radical environmental groups. We couldn't match the money they gave away, so we had to be louder. Which is, I guess, why they hired me. :o)