The passage of Citizens United in 2009 by the Supreme Court, gave multi-national corporations the ability campaign for supported candidates and campaigns on an unlimited basis. Formerly, corporations did not have the ability to run ads, distribute literature, or even address their employees on the basis of political opinion. However, in the Citizens United decision, campaigning was tied to the first amendment rights of free-speech, and since corporations are given the same legal status as regular citizens in this country, a multi-billion dollar corporate interest has the same political status as an individual citizen. It's a manipulation of the political process and completely unfair to the voting public, but there it is.
A natural outgrowth of the Citizens United decision is the development of Super-PACS, or organizations that wield hundreds of millions dollars in favor of a particular party's campaigns and candidates because it bypasses many of the regulatory campaign-finance laws. The brain-child of the very lawyer that was behind the Citizens United decision, James Bopp, candidates and campaign-managers approach major corporations and special interests and ask for very large donations, but instead of going directly to the campaign (which would be capped at $2,500) it goes to the Super-PAC. The Super-PAC then buys ad space and airtime to campaign for the various candidates that are simultaneously raising money for them. Because the money is form corporations and not subject to limits from specific campaigns, this Super-PAC middle-man has unrestricted access to monies for Republican campaigns. Expect to see Republican campaign commercials ad nauseum beginning in January, 2012.
On the other hand, American Bridge, a Democratic Super-PAC, was formed in January of this year. The expectation is that many of unions that have been so heavily attacked in the last two years by ultra-conservative policy-makers will be donating heavily to Democratic campaigns and candidates, using the same method as the Republican Super-PAC. (On a side note, I'm confident that the general apathy of union-member mobilization in politics will be drastically improved this coming election cycle.) Developed by David Brock, owner of Media Matter Action Network, called American Bridge, "a permanent liberal counterweight to Republican-leaning outside groups”, and is meant to undo the work of the Republican dependence on corporate interests.
However, with Obama's announcement of running as an incumbent, he also launched Priorities USA, a Democratic Super-PAC headed by Obama White House veterans and members of his incredibly successful fundraising efforts in 2008. In response, American Bridge has scaled back to become a opposition tracking organization, or "oppo shop". According to POLITICO, a spokesman for the group said, "We will definitely have the biggest research and tracking shop in politics." The group has hired a national network of trackers that will be following movements, comments, blunders and bloopers by Democratic opposition candidates in every state across the country. The group is also quick to point out that this won't be college kics with flip-phones, but political professionals anticipating oppositions' moves and missteps.
With this much of an emphasis on Democratic attacks, we can assume that the Republican candidates will have a much more aggressive opposition than they're used to in past races. With the Obama Super-PAC and such an enormous groundwork for undermining Republican opposition, the 2012 races promise to be fantastic fodder for every news outlet from MSNBC to local affiliates in Anchorage, Alaska. Throw in Palin and we'll have a three-ring circus!
Photo from ready-up.net