Destination 270

SMU Students Analyze the 2012 Presidential Election

The Role of PAC’s in Indiana’s Senate Race

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The use of Political Action Committees (PAC’s) has been increasing in the past several elections. With the decision of the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) that banned restrictions on corporate and union political expenditures in campaigns, the influence of PAC’s and Super PAC’s has increased in the 2012 election.

When major races are extremely close, PAC’s will endorse candidates to help them in the election. They can endorse a candidate, but cannot coordinate campaigning activities with that candidate. Since the Indiana Senate race is very close this year, both the Republican and Democratic candidates have been receiving support from various PAC’s. The PAC’s spend large amounts of money supporting candidates, so it is a good idea to research them to learn who is supporting candidates.

Club for Growth: Action

The Club for Growth PAC has endorsed several candidates for House and Senate races across the country. One of the candidates is Republican Richard Mourdock, running for the Senate Seat in Indiana. This group supports Republican candidates in primary and general elections.

To receive support from Club for Growth, they must be a viable candidate for Congress. Furthermore, they must believe in pro-growth policies, limited government, low taxes and economic freedom. Other candidates beside Mourdock who have received support from the Club are Connie Mack (FL-Sen) and Ted Cruz (TX-Sen).

The Club has spent almost $800,000 in the general election in support of Richard Mourdock. This money has gone to producing an ad and airing it on television across the state. Since the Club cannot coordinate the ad with the Mourdock campaign, it has made the ad a negative attack against his opponent Donnelly.

Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies

Another major contributing PAC to the Indiana race is Crossroads GPS. The PAC has just made a separate ad for four different states in the general election. One of the ads is against Democrat Joe Donnelly in the Indiana Senate Race.

Crossroads GPS claims that it is against big-government in Washington. They support candidates who will try to reduce the role of the federal government. They have several key issues they focus on, including energy, health care, and the federal budget.

For the ad against Joe Donnelly, the group spent $17,000 on the production of the ad. For the air time in Indiana, the group has spent almost $950,000. This is the highest contributions by a PAC in the Indiana race to date.

Center Forward

In addition to PAC’s that support Republican Richard Mourdock, there are several that support Democrat Joe Donnelly. One is Center Forward, a group that seeks to move Americans away from left and right politics towards the center. The PAC supports centrist allies in their endeavors to craft solutions to America’s current problems.

The group began with the emergence of Blue Dog Democrats in Congress. These were Congressmen who identified as Democrats, but were more towards the center than most Democrats. The group named itself Center Forward, seeking to gather support from Independents, Republicans, and Democrats.

Currently, Center Forward has spent $1,000,000 on several ads to oppose Republican Richard Mourdock. This matches the high amounts of money that PAC’s have spent to oppose Joe Donnelly.

Where to Find This Info

The Federal Election Campaign Act in 1971 required candidates to disclose campaign contributions to provide more transparency. It was amended in 1974 to create the Federal Election Commission (FEC), which monitors campaigns to enforce the rules set forth in the legislation.

By going to the FEC website (linked above), any person can find every major donation that any candidate has received in a federal election. Thus, a person can perform his or her own research on PAC’s and candidates to see who is influencing campaigns. This openness in disclosure, although not well known among citizens, provides voters the opportunity to be well informed n federal elections.

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