Four years ago today, the United States Supreme Court issued its Citizens’ United decision, opening the way for unlimited spending by corporations and unions to political committees that don’t coordinate directly with a candidate.
Ironically, the first election to take advantage of the new law and create a so-called “super PAC” was created in 2010 to help Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid against Joe Miller, who had won the Republican Senate primary. More ironic yet, one of Miller’s advisers, Floyd Brown, was responsible for taking the Citizens United case to the Supreme Court in the first place.
Supposedly the case will forever change the way that politics is conducted in the country, and supposedly Alaskans will have a first-hand view of that change in the upcoming U.S. Senate race.
Below is a primer on the groups that are already here, and those that will likely be coming.
Alaska super PACs:
- Put Alaska First reported spending more than $168,000 in December on behalf of Sen. Mark Begich, one of the Democrat’s most vulnerable 2014 incumbents.
- Freedom’s Frontier super PAC is backing the Senate candidacy of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, a Republican. That group hasn’t yet reported an expenditure.
- Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values run by Art Hackney, to help former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who is a Republican. The group has spent roughly $16,000 so far on the race.
In 2012, according to the Wall Street Journal, super PACs spent a whopping $127 million on Senate races across the country. We don’t know how much or whether all the groups below will get involved in the race, but here’s a look at how much the top super PACs in the country spent on the 2012 Senate races:
- Majority PAC: Spent more than $37 million ensuring that the Senate stayed in the hands of the Democrats.
- Club for Growth Action: The ultra conservative group spent nearly $15 million in races to support candidates who were against raising taxes, and opposed those who weren’t.
- Freedomworks for America: This tea-party aligned group spent more than $13 million on the Senate races. It’s said that this group is in disarray, but that could change on a dime.
- America Crossroads: This group gets its stroke from Karl Rove’s name. In 2012, the group spent a fraction of its total 2012 spend, only just over $5 million, on Republican candidates for Senate.
- Americans for Prosperity: The Koch brothers’ funded group has already begun airing ads attacking Begich on his vote for ObamaCare. In 2012, the group spent tens of millions, mostly against Obama.
Other so called super PACs that will more than likely have a presence in Alaska:
- The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund, which would likely support Begich.
- American Bridge: A Democratic research PAC that spent more than $12 million in 2012.
- American Rising: The Republican answer to American Bridge, this one is a new super PAC formed by Matt Rhoades, 2012 Romney for President campaign manager. Joining him is former RNC research director Joe Pounder and spokesman Tim Miller.
According to Art Hackney, who runs Alaska’s Energy/America’s Values, equally important are groups that advocate for a candidate without explicitly doing so. These groups, so called “nondisclosures,” typically thank candidates for voting on a particular bill or championing a particular issue. He said that Begich will have many of those kinds of groups. Indeed, you can hardly click on a website page without the National Association f Realtors popping on your screen, thanking Begich for his support on a housing bill.
It’s also worth noting that these groups can start, and disappear, in a flash. Stay tuned.
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org