2012 Tuesday: Newt on work, and the scourge of super PACs

By the time we’ve reached the third state in the Republican primary process and are witnessing the umpteenth debate, expectations for hearing something novel at one of these forums are pretty low. A debate at this stage might be best compared to a NASCAR race — in which a sizable segment of the audience is watching in case there’s a wreck — or a heavyweight boxing match — in which many viewers are hoping to see one guy deliver a knockout blow to another.

Nevertheless, Monday night’s debate in Myrtle Beach was notable for two moments. One came when debate panelist Juan Williams asked Newt Gingrich if he could see that Gingrich’s past comments about work ethic and food stamps are “viewed, at a minimum, as insulting to all Americans, but particularly to black Americans,” and the former speaker responded with a flat “No” — and proceeded to rip apart the meme bit by bit:

The other one came after a verbal brawl among the candidates about the charges leveled by various candidates’ “super PACs” toward other candidates. Mitt Romney suggested the problem lies with the campaign-finance laws that led to the creation of super PACs in the first place:

ROMNEY: We all would like to have super PACs disappear, to tell you the truth. Wouldn’t it nice to have people give what they would like to to campaigns and campaigns could run their own ads and take responsibility for them? But you know what, this campaign is not about ads, it’s about issues.

DEBATE MODERATOR BRET BAIER: So, Governor Romney, in the general election, if you are the nominee you would like to see Super PACs ended?

ROMNEY: Oh, I would like to get rid of the campaign finance laws that were put in place — McCain-Feingold is a disaster, get rid of it. Let people make contributions they want to make to campaigns, let campaigns then take responsibility for their own words and not have this strange situation we have people out there who support us, who run ads we don’t like, we would like to take off the air, they are outrageous and yet they are out there supporting us and by law we aren’t allowed to talk to them.

I haven’t spoken to any of the people involved in my super PAC in months, and this is outrageous. Candidates should have the responsibility and the right to manage the ads that are being run on their behalf. I think this has to change.

Now, many observers are skeptical about the actual lack of coordination between campaigns and super PACs and believe the Chinese wall is more like a leaky dike without the little Dutch boy. But we are only having this discussion about whether campaigns talk to super PACs because the effort to “get the money out of politics” only led to less accountability. Romney is right: It would be better to eliminate, or at least raise, the government-imposed limits on contributions; have clear and immediate transparency about contributions; let candidates defend their decisions to take money from whoever is giving it to them; and let voters make up their minds.

P.S. – At this point, some of you will ask why I take this position on campaign finance while advocating a limit on gifts from lobbyists to our state legislators. Let me explain, briefly.

As the Supreme Court recognizes, contributions to candidates are a manifestation of political speech, which in our political system must be protected vigilantly. And as Richard Cohen details well, campaign contributions are sometimes the best, or only, way for those opposed to the current political leaders to bring about a change. (One problem with moving totally toward public financing of campaigns is that, in the name of not wasting taxpayer dollars, there inevitably will be thresholds of support that candidates must clear to qualify for public funds — and history teaches us that elected officials set such thresholds to minimize competition, not increase it.)

Political campaigns cost money to run, and it is appropriate that Americans be able to help finance the campaign of a candidate they support. While some people — including, it seems, Romney — support eliminating limits completely, it strikes me as more prudent to increase the limit first and, after examining the results, determine whether it makes sense to keep moving in that direction.

Lawmaking, on the other hand, does not require financial contributions, particularly ones that come in the form of dinners, tickets to sporting events and concerts, or travel. In the vast majority of cases, there is no reason a lobbyist can’t communicate the same point about legislation without buying something for the legislator. For those cases when circumstances dictate otherwise, modest expenses covered by a cap of perhaps $100 should suffice to avoid incriminating people unnecessarily. And I am open to discussion about where the limit should be set in order to minimize such unnecessary problems and to avoid creating new problems as much as is practical.

(Note that we are not talking about the right of a person, group or company to spend money to hire people and pay those employees’ expenses to make said point. That, not gifts, would be the appropriate analogy to campaign contributions when it comes to political speech; lobbying per se is not a problem.)

– By Kyle Wingfield

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192 comments Add your comment

carlosgvv

January 17th, 2012
12:46 pm

Predatory Capitalism has reached a point in this country where corporate money has an unbreakable iron grip on politics. This capitalistic system is broken beyond repair. The only answer is for good Socialist candidates to run for office and voters who will be able to see beyond the all out attact the moneyed interests will make.

Somewhere over there

January 17th, 2012
12:59 pm

“Predatory Capitalism”

What is predatory capitalism?

If someone falls victim to that imaginary scenario they never should have graduated high school.

Hillbilly D

January 17th, 2012
1:07 pm

When I was a kid, I had an uncle who told me to never let anybody give me anything because the price would always be too high. I think you’d could make a good case that the same thing applies in gifts to legislators and campaign contributions. Campaign contributions, when they are at a high dollar level, are a way to buy access.

Kyle Wingfield

January 17th, 2012
1:09 pm

Hillbilly: “Campaign contributions, when they are at a high dollar level, are a way to buy access.”

That’s true. But allowing the people who want/stand to get the most access to reveal themselves through contributions also serves the purpose of letting the rest of us know who to keep the closest eye on.

jconservative

January 17th, 2012
1:18 pm

When are we going to let corporations vote?

JDW

January 17th, 2012
1:24 pm

@Kyle…”But allowing the people who want/stand to get the most access to reveal themselves through contributions also serves the purpose of letting the rest of us know who to keep the closest eye on.”

Which includes the lobbyists and we already keep an “eye” on them. When campaign contributions are unlimited the conversation goes…So instead of a nice dinner how would you like say $10,000 for your campaign? Which of course today they just give to the Super Pac…

The fallacy in our method of financing campaigns is that by definition the people that want access are in fact the Lobbyists. The rest of us go to town hall meetings every once in a while.

JDW

January 17th, 2012
1:26 pm

@jconservative…heck they can already buy elections that’s better than voting…more control over the outcome.

Jefferson

January 17th, 2012
1:34 pm

A bribe is a bribe is a bribe.

Don't Tread

January 17th, 2012
1:34 pm

McCain-Feingold was an attempt to shut single-issue advocacy groups up (specifically, the NRA, as voiced by several Democrats at the time). Seems they didn’t like free speech being used by people they didn’t like around election time.

That worked out well, didn’t it? Now the system is more messed up than it was before McCain-Feingold was passed.

JDW

January 17th, 2012
1:49 pm

NRA is a perfect example of what’s wrong. Here you have a single issue organization purporting to represent the rights of individual gun owners. Sounds great, until you realize that the money is really coming from a variety of US and foreign gun manufacturer’s and “interested” companies such as Blackstone. In fact less than 3% of the NRA’s membership actually votes for the board.

In reality the business of the NRA is protecting the business of its contributors.

http://www.vpc.org/studies/bloodmoney.pdf

Hillbilly D

January 17th, 2012
1:52 pm

In fact less than 3% of the NRA’s membership actually votes for the board.

Not disputing that but couldn’t you say the same thing about most any corporation? The 3% might not be the right number but most corporation boards are also controlled by a very small number of shareholders. Goes back to Kyle’s column of the other day.

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
1:57 pm

The more I read about Gingrich the more I think we need him in Washington. Not as president but as a mover & shaker of the old setup.

Gingrich can hit the nail on the head that nobody likes but are afraid to strike. He’s a fighter who can land a blow. There are not many that can or will do the needed fighting.

I don’t mean accusations & gossip. I mean something that is not working but is approved by important people so nobody speaks the truth. I do believe that Gingrich will speak out clearly.

Can you think how pleasant it would be to have Gingrich running the senate instead of willy nilly Reid? A breath of fresh air in Washington.

ByteMe

January 17th, 2012
2:04 pm

Kyle, I approve of your PS.

And I thought McCain-Feingold was gone…? Or has it been so reduced by John Roberts and the Supremes to “little people are limited in how much money they can give, but big people can give as much as they want”?

JDW

January 17th, 2012
2:06 pm

@Hillybilly…I agree which is one reason I don’t think they are people and why I don’t think they should be able to contribute unlimited funds to directly impact political campaigns.

Somewhere over there

January 17th, 2012
2:08 pm

“NRA is a perfect example of what’s wrong.”

As is Planned Parenthood.

JDW

January 17th, 2012
2:09 pm

Gingrich never left Washington. He lives there and continues to peddle his influence at every opportunity. He doesn’t want to be elected to anything but President…it’s not financially advantageous…those pesky ethics rules and all.

Somewhere over there

January 17th, 2012
2:09 pm

“The more I read about Gingrich the more I think we need him in Washington.”

The guy who agreed with Pelosi on global scamming? The guy who went off on Paul Ryan’s plan?

Somewhere over there

January 17th, 2012
2:10 pm

“Gingrich never left Washington.”

I used to get calls from “the offices of Newt Gingrich” about wanting me to donate money to his “cause.” When he, Newt, went off on Paul Ryan I never looked at him the same way again. This is a guy who went after Clinton all while he was cheating on his own wife.

JDW

January 17th, 2012
2:11 pm

Planned Parenthood should have no more right to unfettered corporate cash than any of the others including the NRA. But, I will wager the list of corporate donors to Planned Parenthood generates is minuscule.

Hillbilly D

January 17th, 2012
2:12 pm

JDW @ 2:06

Don’t know if you’ve ever read any of my previous comments but if you have, I’ve stated before that I think the move to “Corporate Personhood”, in the mid to late 1800’s is one of the great wrong turns this country has made, in its history.

getalife

January 17th, 2012
2:12 pm

Corporations are not people because no corporations can pee in a cup and get executed in Texas.

citizen united changed our country.

Americans are waking up to this fact.

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
2:16 pm

ByteMe

No matter what laws are made about political donations, lower income people do not posess the money to give. Rich people will have plenty of personal funds to draw on. That’s a known fact.

Anyway the law is presented, the same results will happen. More from the rich and less from others.

If all that is made public, then what is there to say? I believe we have given options on whether to limited donations or not. I don’t think there should be an option on that. One rule with no options.

We saw what Obama decided when there were options and he came out way ahead ( and probably willl again). Seems like we need an equal field on the financing of political elections.

ragnar danneskjold

January 17th, 2012
2:18 pm

As one who does not watch commercials, I would have everyone spend as much as they wish on anything. Won’t affect me, but I understand that leftists think the general public are sheep who could be dissuaded from the leftist overlordship if there is a competing message in the ethos.

Don't Tread

January 17th, 2012
2:19 pm

“NRA is a perfect example of what’s wrong.”

I suppose it’s ok with you to abolish the rights of anyone you don’t agree with.

Liberals are what’s wrong.

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
2:27 pm

See what i mean? Some of you remember what Gingrich said and did while forgeting all the other action of the time? He did some good things before if you skip the propaganda. Balanced budget?

And may I ask you where you are going to find the pure, unadulterated person to stand the warfare in Washington? You can’t even as you try ( and there is no such person)..

You have to get one who is smart, eloquent. experienced and determined. Gingrich is no shining example of “proper” living but he is able to state his case with determination. I have no doubt he loves this country just as much as the best to be found..

There’s something to be said for all that.

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
2:31 pm

Ragnar, you ol’ spendthrift!! Throwing money in any direction you want?

Shh…but that sounds like fun.

FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real)

January 17th, 2012
2:33 pm

Juan asked Newton Leroy the worng question. He should have asked why Newt continues to refer only to Blacks and poor people when he talks about food stamps/welfare.

Everyone knows that there are more whites on welfare. And what about the fact that most people receiving food stamps actually WORK. He must also be aware of the number of active duty military and vets that receive food stamps. Are they also “lazy” with no “work ethic”? That seems to be his inference when talking about receiveers of govt assistance. And don’t get me started about Corporate welfare and the billions of dollars in subsidies shelled out to oil barons and others who profit by taking free money from hard working taxpayers.

Newt was simply throwing red meat to the South Carolina GOP base. The shameful applause spoke volumes about the hatred/ignorance and so-called Christian humanity of those people.

Ayn Rant

January 17th, 2012
2:47 pm

The Republican members of the Supreme Court decided that corporations have the right to free speech. Honestly, I’ve never heard a corporation speak, but apparently Republican politicians have, or claim to.

The Republican members of the Supreme Court also elected George Bush in 2000, although Gore won substantially more votes than Bush. And, we all know how that turned out: a diabolical, catastrophic attack on the financial center of our nation by a dozen or so unarmed young men, a counter-strategic war in Iraq that handed Iran the victory, a never-ending war for an undefined cause in perpetually tumultous Afghanistan , followed by a world financial meltdown caused by the unregulated American financial sector.

Now, big corporations and wacky billionaires are pouring millions into financing political campaigns. Really, isn’t this proof that big corporations and the ultra-rich are significantly under taxed?

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
2:51 pm

FEAR,

People receive food stamps because they are POOR. You seem to think that is a horrible designation. It was not at one time. To be on “relief” was considered the greater disgrace. In that way, the “poor” claimed quite rightly their independence.

Now it is no disgrace to be totally dependent on government food, housing, medical care and anything that can be aquired for “free”. It is free for them because they pay no taxes. So now we have dependency instead of self reliance.

If Gingrich is wrong about those that receive food stamps, perhaps he is not aware of the change in time. He will learn that all races receive food stamps. Or maybe there was a time when one race received more “help” than others.

Overall, a racist is not one who makes mistakes about food stamps but hates others not like him. I don’t think the mention of food stamps is a true indicator of one’s character. Mistaken info perhaps but not biigotry. (unless you are intentionally looking for a flaw).

BJ

January 17th, 2012
2:54 pm

FEAR, I am so glad to see your comment. People do not want to understand the math. They say Newt is telling the truth but he is not. If he were telling the truth he would say, the US has 330 million people according to their own statistics. Also according to their numbers Blacks make up 13 to 15% of the nations population. That equals 49 million black people. Now we know all blacks are not on any type of welfare or receiving food stamps, so who is really getting the most government assistance? The answer is whites and other nationalities. If 50% of black people are receiveing food stamps it is still not as much as 25% of white people. The math does not lie but all of thaose candidates that talk about blacks are the real liars and if you are willing to lie to make yourself look good or smart what else would you lie about. People need to really think.

FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real)

January 17th, 2012
3:02 pm

Dusty, If indeed Newt is “out of touch” to such a degree then he does not deserve to serve as the people’s President. So much is said of this man’s supposed intelligence. How could he miss such facts if you and I and others who are paying attention are so fully aware? I simply do not buy it; but I appreciate your point.

Nat Turner

January 17th, 2012
3:02 pm

Good points, B.J. But shh, it is all of those black people in their Air Jordans, weaves, and well-tended to nails that are taking money from hardworking white people.

Nat Turner

January 17th, 2012
3:04 pm

Oh I forgot to add that it is their “slave mentality” (as somebody said yesterday” and not the “serf mentality” of the white recepients of welfare.

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
3:06 pm

AynRant@ 2:47

How in the world could anyone present so many false statement at one time?

#1 Corporations would not exist without people.

#2 George Bush was elected quite properly though the electoral system of the USA.

#3 The terrorism of 9/11 that happened nine months after Bush became president was planned long years before that terrible event in NYC..

#4 The ultra rich are equal citizens in the USA just like everybody else and should have equal and fair taxation.

Dusty

January 17th, 2012
3:17 pm

FEAR

Gingrich is for reducing the need for foodstamps and other aids by increasing the independence of those receiving them. Everybody! Do you wish for more people to be able to take care for themselves in all areas of their lives? Well, Gingrich does and so do most Americans.

As I said before, you find the perfect candidate who knows all and understands everything and is impeccably pure and you’ve got the perfect one. Let me know when you find him.

Linda

January 17th, 2012
3:19 pm

Ms. Rant@2:47, “…a diabolical, catastrophic attack on the financial center of our nation by a dozen or so unarmed young men…”
Man, I wish I could have seen that!
All this because Gore beat Bush but the Supreme Court Republicans elected Bush. I see.
And after two hundred years, we still had an unregulated American financial sector? Congress bad.

The Elite

January 17th, 2012
3:20 pm

Kyle, I find in entertaining that the majority white crowd (you think 90%) booed the only black guy in the room and cheered Newt’s “this might not be politically correct, and uncomfortable to the elite, but I care, I swear, I really care ..” rambling. The only job Newt has enhanced is the Tiffany employee that sold him some jewlery. Trickle down economics I guess.

wallbanger

January 17th, 2012
3:21 pm

I loved Gingrich’s answer and he is absolutely right on that point. Not to say I liked his attacking Romney for pursuing perfectly legal business practices in pursuit of a profit cause I like profits too. I will vote for either one of them, or for Minnie Mouse before I would vote for the current idiot in chief.

Linda

January 17th, 2012
3:35 pm

The only things progressives hate more than capitalism are corporations. The problem is that progressives don’t know what corporations are. It varies by state, but it takes a minimum of one & not more than 3 people (PEOPLE) to become a corporation. Any PERSON can take his checkbook downtown tomorrow & become incorporated. The day after you become incorporated, you still have all the rights you had the day before.

Linda

January 17th, 2012
3:39 pm

Progressives are upset with this 2010 Supreme Court ruling mainly because it gave the same rights to corporations that it did to unions.

Rafe Hollister

January 17th, 2012
3:43 pm

With 35 debates, why do we need any paid advertising? If people are too dumb to pick a candidate after all these debates, they are too dumb to vote.

I am for getting the government out of anything that is not enumerated in the Constitution, however, I make one exception. Let us go to public financing of federal campaigns. Require FCC license holders to equally provide time for either debates or campaign ads. Give them a small allowance, for which they are accountable, to allow for travel. Then vote in 45 days and move on.

People who are too dumb, too involved with other things, or just do not care, should not vote anyway.

Rafe Hollister

January 17th, 2012
3:50 pm

Linda
Corporations are people, but Unions are better than People. Just ask Barry Oblamer, he put the Unions ahead of the lienholders and shareholders in the Gov Motors bankruptcy. Never before in history had that been done, so I am assuming that they now outrank people, at least in the eyes of this regime.

lil' barry food stamps

January 17th, 2012
3:50 pm

The Unions have to compete with Corporations to buy elections anymore and that’s just not “Equal FAIRNESS” under the “SOCIAL JUSTICE” clause of the progressive “LIVING CONSTITUTION”!

Michael H. Smith

January 17th, 2012
3:52 pm

Rafe Hollister
January 17th, 2012
3:43 pm

Spot on!

getalife

January 17th, 2012
3:53 pm

So willard was hiding the fact he paid less taxes than Buffett.

Raise them on the wealthy so they pay like the workers.

You lose this argument cons.

What makes you think another gop administration would not be the same as the last?

Another disaster is the last thing our country and people need.

rightwing troll

January 17th, 2012
3:53 pm

Oh Gingrich is good… He had me until we got to the foodstamp President thing. The problem is that he’s interpolating W’s economy and the rising number of people applying for foodstamps as Obama took office. He very well may be correct in his assertion that more people have been put on some sort of Govt assistance during Obama’s term than any other President’s first term, but he leaves out the causation.

getalife

January 17th, 2012
3:56 pm

troll,

cons ignore the w collapse.

lil' barry food stamps

January 17th, 2012
4:02 pm

Barack Hussein Obama America’s Food Stamp President.

Linda

January 17th, 2012
4:09 pm

Rafe@3:50, You get not one, but two stars.

Linda

January 17th, 2012
4:16 pm

Liberals think if they continue to repeat lies (Including distortions & omissions) enough times, the conservatives will eventually believe them. Just because it worked on them does not mean it will ever work on us.

Just because 9/11 happened during Bush’s term does not mean he was flying the planes. Just because the financial meltdown started during Bush’s term does not mean he was attached to coattails of the GSEs.