Election Series Podcast

Ep. 19 PACs and the Road to an Oligarchy


A PAC is a useful tool in order to pool resources and funnel them into a common goal.

A Super PAC is a useful tool in order to turn the country into a oligarchy.


First off, it would be a good idea to explain what the hell a PAC is.

  • It is a Political Action Committee.
  • First appearance in 1944 to help FDR get re-elected
  • “Independent” of any political figure or party
  • Intended to raise money to further a cause or goal




FEC only made up of 6 people, so it’s hard to monitor

There are restrictions that prevent any PAC from essentially buying an election. It allows them to influence policy of a collective without destroying our democracy.

Federal law restricts the actions of PACs

  • Can only receive $5,000 from any individual
  • Donate $5,000 to a candidate
  • $15,000 to a national party committee
  • There is no limit on independent expenditures

And it’s that last little clause which is the big issue. That’s one of the ways a super PAC works.

There have been many campaign finance reform laws over the years. In 1990 a supreme court ruling upheld the restriction of corporations from using treasury funds to influence election. They couldn’t use their money to support or attack candidates, parties, etc. They had to have a separate fund. This was good because it prevented major corporations from spending a lot of money to buy elections.

Shit got real fucked up in 2010. That’s when the infamous Citizen’s United came to be. This ruling by the SCOTUS changed everything for the worse. In a nutshell, the ruling was that corporations’ political spending was protected by the first amendment’s freedom of speech. Essentially saying that political spending was speech, and therefore previous laws couldn’t infringe on that.

Same year we get SpeechNOW.org vs FEC. Citizen’s United paved the way for this little gem. Remember how we discussed a PAC can only accept $5000 from any person? Also, it’s allowed unlimited expenditures? Well, speechnow.org argued that since they were not donating to any candidate or party, that those clauses don’t apply and that their’s, and their donor’s, first amendment rights were violated by that limitation.

With this ruling, as long as a PAC doesn’t donate to a candidate or party, they are allowed to accept unlimited donations. Also, they don’t have to report who their donors are. Combine that with Citizen’s United, which removes restriction of corporate entities, you now have a political system where major corporations and wealthy americans can anonymously spend unlimited amounts of money to influence an election, and you get an oligarchy: a country that is run by the rich.

Sounds a bit far-fetched. I know.

However, these rulings only helped the Koch machine. If you don’t know the Kochs

  • 2 of 4 brothers.
  • Inherited Koch Industries from father after fighting for control
  • Super libertarians that believe in complete and utter free-market

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