Super PACs Make It Easier for Rich People to Waste Money on Bad Ideas

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One of the most annoying parts of running for president for guys like Mitt Romney and Barack Obama -- men who are not natural back-slappers like Bill Clinton -- is that they have to pretend to be interested in all the terrible ideas offered by the rich guys who donate tons of money to their campaigns. One of the most annoying things for political consultants who want to destroy the competition is that some squeamish politicians and their families are reluctant to go nuclear. The Super PAC solves both these problems. Rich guys get an outlet for their ideas, and consultants get the creative freedom to say and do whatever they want.

"If you’re a top consultant today, you’d much rather have a presidential super PAC than a presidential campaign," Matt Mackowiak, of the Super PAC Let Freedom Ring, tells The New York Times' Nicholas Confessore. There are no rival staffers to fight with, no candidates to answer to. Several other consultants told The Times just how awesome working for Super PACs can be, including Fred Davis, the guy who created the proposal for a $10 million ad campaign attacking Obama for his former preacher, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The rich guy who planned to finance it, Joe Ricketts, disavowed the ad's storyboard once it became public. 

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When news of the Wright ad broke last week, Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out that Davis was behind a couple famous flops, like Christine O'Donnell's "I'm not a witch" ad and Jon Huntsman's lone-motocross-biker-of-the-GOP-apocalypse ad. But that work was for actual, if doomed, political campaigns, and were far less explosive than the proposed Wright ad, which was for a Super PAC. Working for outside groups means even fewer checks on the consultants' impulses, Confessore writes:

“You don’t have kitchen cabinets made up of well-intentioned friends and neighbors who don’t know what they’re doing but eat up a lot of your time,” said Bob Schuman, who ran a super PAC called Americans for Rick Perry during the Republican presidential primaries. “Super PACs don’t have spouses.”

Or mistresses. On Monday, The Times had another story, by Kim Severson, which underscores how easily rich people who make politics their hobby can be lured into terrible investments. Severson writes of the two John Edwardses: the promising presidential candidate and the idiot obsessed with his New Age mistress. It would have been a lot harder for Edwards to continue his affair if it weren't for the money at the center of the Edwards trial. Two donors poured more than $1 million into supporting Edwards' mistress because they had apparently unlimited faith in the future of a politician whose tops credentials were his accent and his hair. Imagine what they could have done had Super PACs had been legal in 2008.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.