Utah’s own Tea Party Senator Michael Shumway Lee, an alleged fiscal conservative, wants his Political Action Committee (PAC) to be able to receive unlimited contributions.
He currently has what’s called a Leadership PAC, which is a distinction given to those PACs led by members of Congress, named the Constitutional Conservatives Fund. Money from that PAC can only be spent to support other candidates; additionally, Leadership PACs have limits on the amount of donations they can receive.
But there are also these things called Super PACs, which can receive unlimited donations. Surrounding this whole idea of unlimited contributions is the idea that money is speech, and that limiting the amount of money I can donate limits my First Amendment rights.
But how do these PACs work? And where does this idea of “money equals speech” come from? How does the recent Citizens United* ruling fit into all of this?
Well, I hope you’re sitting down, because I’m about to lay some real fucking knowledge up in this bitch.
Let’s talk about four different types of donations:
- Individual donations to federal election campaigns.
- Corporate donations to federal election campaigns.
- Individual donations to PACs (i.e. non-federal election campaigns).
- Corporate donations to PACs.
Currently, individuals are limited to how much they can donate to a Federal candidate’s official campaign; so when Mitt Romney is running for President, he has an official campaign which, as an individual, you’re only allowed to donate $2,500 to per election. Corporations and unions can’t donate to these official election campaigns at all.
The Citizens United ruling did not affect this.
Currently, individuals are only able to donate up to $5,000 per year to a PAC.
Citizens United did not affect this either.
And because of Carey v FEC, even PACs that aren’t supposed to receive unlimited contributions can start receiving unlimited funds as long as they keep those funds in a separate bank account.
Citizens United also did not affect this.
Citizens United did affect how PACs are able to spend their money, saying they can’t be limited to when they show the political advertisements they’ve developed (as they previously were because of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act).
Are you confused yet?
Then there’s McConnell v FEC which upheld the previous ruling that members of Congress aren’t allowed to solicit unlimited contributions, but would be limited to the previously established $5,000 amount.
And the Carey v FEC case (which I already mentioned) also didn’t include Leadership PACs as a type of PAC that’s allowed to receive unlimited funds as long as they kept them in a separate bank account.
Those last two points? That’s what Mike Lee has a problem with.
He’s sought an advisory opinion from the FEC (which just means they’ll tell him, in advance, whether or not he’s going to get in trouble for what he’s about to do) as to whether he can start asking for unlimited contributions to his PAC.
I would spend these next few sentences raging about how this is ridiculous and how elections shouldn’t be bought and that politicians should focus on rallying people behind their principles instead of using money to sway politics.
But my brain is so fucking fried from trying to understand the clusterfuck that is campaign finance that I just can’t write any more about it.
*I only bring up Citizens United because it’s become the cool thing to mention when talking about campaign finance corruption. The next person who does that, slap them in the face for me.