In Which Jeb Bush Flies a Helicopter to Explode a Nuke Over Gotham Harbor
As the semester begins to wind down, the politics stories submitted by the students in POLS 041 seem to be more interesting week to week.
The week’s feature submission comes from Kaori Kubo, an international student from Japan. Kaori has frequently given us a useful “outsider’s” perspective on the American political system.
Kaori sent us a recent “Mischief of Faction” post entitled “The Dark Campaign Web Rises.” The post written by Jennifer Victor compares how official campaigns are financed with the fairly unregulated role of Super-PACs and 501(c)(4) organizations.
The official campaign finance regulations are nicely summarized on the FEC website. But we must remember that modern campaigns have two sides–the official campaign, which is organized by the candidate and receives regulated donations from many sources, and the unofficial campaign, which has always existed in some way but has been growing and was given new life under the 2010 Citizen’s United decision and the decisions that followed it. The key in campaign finance law is that the unofficial campaign cannot, technically, coordinate with the official campaign. In essence, if the Mickey Mouse Campaign for state cat-catcher communicates with a supporting super PAC about what message to use, which markets to buy ads in, etc, the coordination constitutes a contribution to the campaign and is therefore limited by law. The only way the Super PAC can receive unlimited donations is if it does not coordinate with the campaign. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert famously ridiculed this rule.
The split-level character of current campaign finance is shown below:
2016 will tell a lot about the relationship between official and unofficial campaigns.