- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 5, 2012

In a sign that super PACs are the new normal, two highly unlikely groups established the vehicles known for unlimited corporate contributions last week: an Occupy Wall Street super PAC and another created to run ads opposing — super PACs.

“Fight fire with fire!” pleads Citizens Against Super PACs, which formed Tuesday. “We use funds to educate the public about super PACs, and we run ads to help candidates and elected officials who support a constitutional amendment to either limit super PACs or get rid of them all together,” it says.

On Wednesday, as Occupy Wall Street protesters in Washington and other cities continued their months-long demonstrations against what they call corporate greed and the purchase of political influence, paperwork arrived at the Federal Election Commission establishing We Are the 99% Movement.

“Citizens United is the worst decision for this country since Dred Scott. Saying corporations are people is as bad as saying people are property,” the latter group’s founder, Duke Thomas, said of the 2010 Supreme Court case that allowed corporations and unions to donate to such groups and allowed them to accept contributions of any size.

“I think it is ludicrous to say someone gave me $1 million, but if they call, I’m not going to talk to them, and if they have a point of view, I’m not going to listen,” he added.

“The 1% and their corporations contribute and spend these grotesque amounts” seeking laws benefiting them, the Occupy-themed super PAC’s mission statement laments.

Yet both groups chose to form under a category stemming from that decision.

Carrot to stick

Half of the PACs created so far this year have been in the “super” category, up from a quarter in 2011.

The proliferation of independent-expenditure-only committees, as they are formally known, illustrates a political shift from the carrot to the stick. The traditional role of a political action committee is to reward positions in like-minded lawmakers by contributing $5,000 to their re-election accounts.

But there’s no negative counterpoint to that. A PAC can’t deduct $5,000 from the accounts of politicians it dislikes.

The usual role of a super PAC, on the other hand, is to run ads attacking lawmakers who don’t share the group’s position.

Technically, regular PACs can run ads, though it is rarely done, and such groups can accept individual contributions of only $5,000 or less. Super PACs, meanwhile, may not contribute to candidates — a restriction that did not seem to bother leaders of many new groups.

“My lawyer said, ‘Why not?’ Everyone’s creating them as super PACs,” Mr. Thomas said.

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