Saturday, February 25, 2012
Super PACs -- New Arena for Corruption?
Everybody who follows the elections already knows about Super PACs and how they came about in the aftermath of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court. They know that these special PACs are now allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from super-rich donors and corporations.
However, very little attention has been paid to just how those millions of dollars are actually being spent. Are the funds used wisely, and only for the campaigns for which they were intended? Do they go to pay extremely high salaries and consulting fees? Do they pay for unnecessary boondoggles and whims of the person running the Super PAC? Who can know for sure, because there are no controls, no oversight, and no restrictions on how those funds are used. The field is wide open for behind-the-scenes graft and corruption within these super PACs.
Dale Emmons, who is the president of the American Association of Political Consultants has pointed out, “People who are raising the money are paying themselves with these funds.” And he adds, “I don’t think that’s appropriate,"
In one Super PAC, Becky Burkett, the president of Winning Our Future (a group backing Newt Gingrich), was paid more than $200,000 in January for “executive management and fund raising services.” Gregg Phillips, the Super PAC's managing director, was also paid $90,000. When asked about these payments, the group's senior adviser Rick Tyler said the payments included compensation for work performed in November and December (even though the Super PAC wasn't even launched until mid-December). He also said that their salaries were determined by the super PAC's "senior leadership." And the senior leadership consists of: Rick Tyler, Becky Burkett, and Gregg Phillips. Go figure.
Paul S. Ryan, an attorney with the watchdog group called The Campaign Legal Center, says that there are no restrictions on how super PACs spend ;their money. “They can buy themselves yachts and sail off into the sunset without spending a penny on campaign ads,” He goes on to say, “There is no guarantee that the money is going to be used in a way that the donor intends that money to be used.”
I performed some analysis of the expenditures of the Red, White, and Blue Super PAC that supports Rick Santorum. I am beginning to think that “Super PAC” might stand for “Super Politicians And Crooks.” In examining the figures provided by The Center for Responsive Politics, of the $2.7 million that the Red, White and Blue Fund spent from 2/16/12 to 2/24/12, a total of 41.9% went to a company by the name of Global Intermediate for “direct voter mailings,” while 58.1% went to television production and advertising.
What's so interesting about this? Well, the Super PAC is owned by the a former Santorum aide, Nick Ryan, and guess what! He also owns Global Intermediate, LLC. This company didn't incorporate until mid-December, and then did so as a Delaware Corporation which shields the identity of the corporate owners or principals.. A look at the Global Intermediate web site, which was registered less than two weeks ago, shows the site to be very basic and lackluster. It provides almost no information about the company or absolute nothing about any of its management or employees. It doesn't even include a contact list or e-mail address. The phone number provided (202-505-4564), when checked with a reverse directory, appears to be a cell phone. The address given (2100 M St NW, Washington, DC 20037) is that of a UPS storefront that offers mailbox rentals, and some types of business services.
In examining the figures provided by The Center for Responsive Politics, of the $2.7 million that the Red White and Blue Fund spent from 2/16/12 to 2/24/12, a total of 41.9% went to Ryan's company, Global Intermediate for “direct voter mailings,” while 58.1% went to television production and advertising.
When asked, Stuart Roy, spokesperson for the Super PAC, said he had "no idea" how to contact Global Intermediate. However, the following day, he acknowledged in an e-mail that it is a company run by Ryan.
So, there you have it: Super PACs with super pay, super flexibility in how they spend their funds, and no accountability whatsoever for how they are spent. Who could ask for anything more? Some think that this kind of situation will be self-correcting, but I have serious doubts.