The American author and humorist Mark Twain or Samuel Langhorne Clemens
once remarked sarcastically about the United States: " We have the best government that money can buy." No doubt the U.S. also has the best elections that money can buy.
This year more money will be spent through Super PACs and other outside groups now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have the right of free speech. To summarize briefly the Supreme Court decision:
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 50 (2010), was a landmark United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions.
One result of this decision was the formation of what came to be called super PACs(Political Action Committees) described as follows
The result of the Citizens United and SpeechNow.org decisions was the rise in 2010 of a new type of political action committee, popularly dubbed the "super PAC".... Super PACs may not make contributions to candidate campaigns or parties, but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Also unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from corporations, unions and other groups, and from individuals, without legal limits.
Super PACs are not required to reveal their donors.
Sheila Krumholz the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics says that present data shows that the record breaking expenditures of the 2008 elections are on track to be broken. She also noted:
"More important than the total spent, the real difference this cycle is how great a portion of that money will come from purportedly independent, often secretive groups."
The Center predicts
that the presidential race on its own will cost close to $2.5 billion. A reporter for USA TODAY estimates that spending by candidates, parties, and the super PACs associated with each candidate has already crossed the one billion mark.
The big change in 2012 is outside money. There have always been outside groups supporting different causes and candidates but the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling has led to a huge surge in super PACs. While even in earlier elections huge sums were spent to convince voters to vote for Democrats or Republicans now the influence of money and corporations will be even larger. Third parties who simply cannot raise the funds required to gain public attention haven't a chance. The media pay them no mind. The end result is as Mark Twain said: "The best government that money can buy".