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Area residents sound off about Super PACs

May 07, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Randall Nickels
By Caleb Calhoun/Mobile Journalist

Washington County resident Ed Distad did not hide his opposition Monday to the existence of Super PACs.

“It gives us a distorted impression of who the candidates are,” he said. “I’d rather we not have them.”

Distad, 70, was among area residents who gave their opinions Monday on Super PACs, a new kind of political action committee created in July 2010 that can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals to advocate for or against political candidates. According to published reports, Super PAC spending on the 2012 presidential election surpassed $35 million by the end of January.

The groups formed after the Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission case, when the United States Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 margin that government does not have the right to ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections, citing that it violates the First Amendment.

Distad said he disagrees with the ruling.

“Corporations are not people,” he said. “They don’t vote. That should be left up to the people.”

Walkersville, Md., resident Michelle Hughes, 35, also said that there should be a limit on how much groups and individuals can spend on elections.

“Certain groups can now dominate the political system,” she said. “Where would the limit end?”

Hughes added that the Super PACs diminishes the power of the people.

“Whoever has the most money wins,” she said. “That’s not fair.”

Reston, Va., resident John Stoothoff said he thinks the existence of Super PACs reduces individuals’ voices.

“If this is the year of the 99 percent and the 1 percent, it sounds like it’s being steered toward the 1 percent,” he said. “That ought to resonate with a lot of our citizens.”

Stoothoff, 62, added that he is also against the Supreme Court decision.

“There is a vast difference between those of us who keep a residence and maintain our own single income tax against what is available to the corporations,” he said.

Hagerstown resident Randall Nickels, 55, said he was for restrictions on any groups that donate money to campaigns.

“They shouldn’t be making decisions on who is elected. That should be up to the people,” he said. “Everything needs restrictions. Look at what happened to the banks when we stopped restricting them.”

Nickels added that corporate influence in government has existed for a long time, though.

“Corporations run this country,” he said. “Politicians don’t run it; the big wheels do.”

John Buffington, 44, of Hagerstown, said he was against the existence of Super PACs because they allow corporations to dominate the country.

“If they’re going to donate a lot of money for them, they’re going to promote somebody that we might not like,” he said. “I think everybody should have restrictions on what they can donate to campaigns.”

Although they can advocate for certain candidates, Super PACs cannot donate money directly to candidates, and they must report their donors to the Federal Election Commission on a monthly or quarterly basis.

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