What do you get when you putand in the same place at the same time at a mega-fundraising event in Park City, Utah? If you answered the appearance of coordination and collusion between the Romney campaign and American Crossroads, then you likely understand the skepticism of many towards the Supreme Court’s 5-4 per curiam decision not to re-visit its controversial Citizen’s United decision.
The Court’s American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock decision on Monday virtually ensures that there will be no stopping corporate money from flooding into Super PACs at record rates during the November election. The decision to maintain the status quo also turns a blind eye to the fact that the American public is watching billionaires and corporations single handedly drive messages in support or against certain issues and candidates in advertisements that sound and appear remarkably similar to that of the political parties and their candidates. These increasingly obvious coordinative actions raise red flags signaling that perhaps the line drawn between Super PAC activity and Political Campaign activity has become blurry to non-existent.
The appearance of coordination and collusion post-Citizens United, a decision called “uninformed, arrogant, and naïve” by Sen.in a recent interview with "Meet the Press," has been severely exasperated at the presidential level. With only two candidates in the race, divisive opposing views on almost every major issue, and because of the national media’s focus on the every move of the candidates and their associated/unassociated groups, hiding any type of coordination between PACs and candidates is now virtually impossible.
As hard and soft ads from the campaigns hit the airwaves, there have likewise been streams of Super PAC ads running that could easily be labeled candidate specific because the issues addressed have been framed in a manner where the lay person can easily tell what candidate backs or opposes the viewpoint or stance promoted. For example, with Karl Rove and the American Crossroads Super PAC, any concern over the appearance of collusion seems to run a distant second to attempting to humiliate the president with one-sided content and Republican talking points. It’s no secret that American Crossroads is a GOP operation run by former members of team Bush, and although they may technically be unassociated with the Romney campaign, there can be no doubt that Rove’s ads are purposefully directed at hurting Obama in an unabashed attempt to benefit the presumptive GOP candidate.
Still, what really takes the efforts of Rove and some other conservative Super PACs to the level of possibly violating campaign finance rules is the visibility of the biggest donors to outside groups at Romney campaign events disguised as fundraisers.
It became obvious that the new rules would be tested at their limit during the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary, asand a Super PAC led by campaign made no attempt to curb public perception that they were coordinating by appearing on stage together at multiple Gingrich fundraising events. The response from the guilty parties then was that it was not coordination simply to be seen together. But, at an event like the “fundraising retreat” for Romney in Park City, it is simply naïve to think that there is not backroom coordination occurring between big money donors and campaign staff. The question now becomes what can be done in the wake of the American Tradition decision to ensure that American voters are not having their voices diluted beyond what is acceptable under Citizens United and the US Constitution.
At this point, the implication from American Tradition is that nothing will be done at the Supreme Court level to change the rules despite growing evidence of their abuse. Any substantive changes will not occur until after the 2012 election cycle and will likely require a heightened level of proof of collusion and coordination to move the Court to seriously re-address the campaign finance issue.
The conservative justices have taken a wait-and-see approach, while the liberal justices continue to point out many of the same concerns raised by this and many other articles on the post-Citizens United landscape. Therefore, it will be up to good reporting and increased accountability on the part of the American electorate and media to move the Court to act on the fact that coordination is in fact occurring. The Court has long considered the appearance of corruption as a compelling governmental interest, and evidence of such should be at the heart of any discussion on election rules in the United States. Unfortunately, because of American Tradition, Karl Rove and other GOP-tied Super PACs will be allowed to continue abusing campaign finance rules.
If you like writing about U.S. politics and the 2012 campaign, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.