I'm sure you've tuned in to any of the 2012 election coverage you've heard mention of Super PACs. I know a lot of folks outside of the beltway that don't know what a PAC is, let alone a Super one. A political action committee aka PAC is essentially a group of people who come together pool their contributions and donate money to a politicians and candidates. PACs are generally focused on a single issue and thus are a more effective means of influence because a candidate will be able to recognise the cause. If I wrote a check to a candidate he/she wouldn't know the issues I care about or what's important to me, but if I join a PAC that supports environmental protection and that PAC writes a check to that same candidate you can be sure they'll know what I care about. Most companies, trade associations and even interest groups have a PAC now a days. There are literally thousands of PACs out there, if not hundreds of thousands.
The FEC (Federal Election Commission) has created strict guidelines for PACs to follow. The maximum a PAC can contribute to a candidate per election is $5,000. PAC's have to report ever dollar they spend and it becomes public record. Any lobbyists who use the money to attend events are also reported and monitored closely. And any individual who contributes more than $200 to the PAC also has to be listed with receipt reports to the FEC.
In the 2010 election cycle over $4 billion dollars were spend by candidates, party committees, and Super PACs. That's the most in history, and 2012 looks to far exceed even those numbers.
It's really sickening how out of control this spending is getting. If you think lobbying is bad just think about what these politicians will do after being propped up by a Super PAC. $5000 is nothing now. It's scary really.
Hope you're having a great Wednesday!