Victor Frankenstein dies by the hand of his monster. In the book Jurassic Park, the guy who puts together the park gets eaten by his creation. Sometimes life just hands you those little ironies. And one of them involves the group Citizens United protesting the recent bipartisan spending bill, because it allows too many campaign contributions.
Citizens United has been around for 25 years, but didn't get to be a household name until the Supreme Court case four years ago, when they beat the Federal Election Commission and got all kinds of campaign limits struck down.
But now they're ticked because the new spending bill allows more campaign spending on party committees. The leader of the group, David N. Bossie, wrote
"Citizens United v. FEC, eliminated limits for independent speech, but did not address limits on contributions to candidates, party committees, or hard dollar political action committees. The contribution limits for those entities remained in place. The Omnibus rider provides additional funding sources to party committees, but fails to address contribution limits to traditional political committees or candidates. Individual limits increase every two years with inflation, however the $5,000 hard dollar PAC limit has not increased in nearly 40 years. These limits should be raised to more realistic levels so these candidates and committees can more effectively make their voices heard."
Why is Citizens United really mad? You see, they're a Political Action Committee, and they would like more money, although they're pretty loaded, thanks to the Koch brothers.
Citizens United promises to provide "citizen control" for the process, although increases in spending clearly would put even most middle class voters out of the running, where maximum limits make up a tenth of one's salary, at least for those making $100,000.
Actually, Politico writes what donors are actually allowed to spend on.
"Under the campaign finance provision, party committees will be able to increase their overall contribution limit by setting up different funds for building and legal costs. At face value, the language would seem to forbid the new cash from being used to pay for television ads, polling or other electioneering."
Citizens United and other Tea Party groups are claiming this hurts free speech. Yet they can still have Super PACs thanks to another 2010 Supreme Court case: SpeechNow.org v. FEC. According to Open Secrets.org.
"Super PACs may raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend unlimited sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. Super PACs must, however, report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis -- the Super PAC's choice -- as a traditional PAC would. Unlike traditional PACs, Super PACs are prohibited from donating money directly to political candidates. As of December 11, 2014, 1,269 groups organized as Super PACs have reported total receipts of $687, 577,691 and total independent expenditures of $345,941,828 in the 2014 cycle."
Those groups (liberal and conservative) include Club for Growth, American Crossroads, one called "Keep Citizens United," and even a Tea Party Patriot Citizens Fund which has raised $14 million according OpenSecrets.org.
This is a bit like someone pushing for guns everywhere, but gets angry because he has a shotgun and his neighbor has an assault rifle.
Of course, if conservatives really want citizens in control or prefer to reduce the power and influence of a few individuals and groups, they could team up with liberals who have pushed this for years. But that might mean giving up the hundreds of millions in Super PACs, and millions more in PACs that's out there. Much like the rich man that Jesus tells to give up all his possessions to follow him, I expect that it's easier to get a camel through a modern day eye of the needle, not just those old narrow city gates.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.