Negating the effect of SuperPAC cash
SouthtownStar editorial June 8, 2012 8:30PM
Updated: July 11, 2012 10:23AM
Emergencies often provoke bad laws. The change in Illinois’ campaign finance law passed last month is one of those.
Wrong time, wrong reason, wrong philosophy. But unfortunately, necessary.
That’s because a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling bestowed personhood on corporations and defined spending money on politics as free speech.
That makes limits on state political contributions all but unworkable. Buying elections has now become the law of the land.
The law now before Gov. Pat Quinn is regrettable but one to which there is no useful alternative. If Quinn must hold his nose while he signs, we understand.
The Supreme Court edict has spawned monster political action committees, known as SuperPACs, that can spend unlimited amounts of money as long as it’s not given directly to a candidate’s campaign.
State and national politics are more than ever a greenback cesspool. Is money corrosive in politics? Anybody remember Rod Blagojevich?
It took Illinois decades to produce a workable set of campaign financing limits only three years ago, and the new law would wipe them out.
Under the law, if a SuperPAC gives at least $250,000 toward a statewide race or $100,000 to a legislative or local race, the state limits for the underfunded candidate are exempted so he or she can be more competitive.
As an example, billionaire hedge fund operators Kenneth and Anne Griffin made $305,000 in Illinois contributions between Dec. 29 and Jan. 6 — most to downstate Republican Party county committees that returned most of that money to the state leadership to spend on GOP candidates and causes. Clever money laundering.
The inevitable result, without the necessary change in state law, would be a tidal wave of money that could overwhelm a candidate and literally purchase an election.
Money fuels all politics. The Supreme Court ruling attacked common sense, and Illinois legislators are trying to bring some fairness to a bad situation.
Ironically, more political money has made us all poorer.