Americans fed up by Super PAC spending, poll says

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney in Orlando, Fla. (Pic by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

A new national poll released this week by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law finds that many Americans “are less likely to vote because of Super PAC spending.”

The Brennan Center reports:

The poll reveals that nearly 70 percent of Americans believe Super PAC spending will lead to corruption and that three in four Americans believe limiting how much corporations, unions, and individuals can donate to Super PACs would curb corruption. Of those who expressed an opinion, more than 80 percent believe that, compared with past elections, the money being spent by political groups this year is more likely to lead to corruption. And, most alarmingly, the poll revealed that concerns about the influence Super PACs have over elected officials undermine Americans’ faith in democracy: one in four respondents — and even larger numbers of low-income people, African Americans, and Latinos — reported that they are less likely to vote because big donors to Super PACs have so much more sway than average Americans.

Here are some highlights of the survey:

  • 69% of respondents agreed that “new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.”
  • 73% of respondents agreed that “there would be less corruption if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs.”
  • More than two-thirds of all respondents (68%) — including 71% of Democrats and Republicans — agreed that a company that spent $100,000 to help elect a member of Congress could successfully pressure him or her to change a vote on proposed legislation.
  • More than three-quarters of all respondents — 77% — agreed that members of Congress are more likely to act in the interest of a group that spent millions to elect them than to act in the public interest.
  • Two in three Americans — 65% — say that they trust government less because big donors to Super PACs have more influence than regular voters.
  • One in four Americans — 26% — say that they are less likely to vote because big donors to Super PACs have so much more influence over elected officials than average Americans.

Super PACs were created in the wake of the federal court case known as SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, which loosened up previous campaign finance regulations. Groups are now allowed to accept unlimited amounts of money from a corporation’s treasuries (i.e. profits) and spend millions supporting or opposing political candidates. Super PACs are notorious for receiving very limited regulation.

Just last month, the Sunlight Foundation reported that Super PACs and other outside groups are already spending four times as much money on this upcoming presidential as they did during the 2008 presidential election.

Polling released last month showed that 70 percent of registered voters believe that Super PACs should be illegal.

Super PACs have been especially influential in Florida, where a whopping $17.8 million was spent during the state’s primary, according to ProPublica’s PAC Track. Of that cash, $10.9 million was spent by Restore Our Future, a Super PAC associated with Mitt Romney. Winning Our Future, a Super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich, spent $5.4 million in that race.

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Ashley Lopez

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