Super PACS obstruct campaign responsibility

It’s a strange state of affairs when a political candidate cannot control the campaigning that is done on his behalf and he is barred by law from directly trying to assert control.

The ads that have made the biggest news in the 2012 presidential-nomination campaign haven’t been paid for by the candidates themselves; they’ve been produced by independent-expenditure committees, commonly called super PACs (for political action committee).

The PACs and their ads, which have been accused in several instances of presenting false information, illustrate that federal campaign-finance restrictions implemented decades ago and tweaked repeatedly over the years are producing increasingly bizarre results.

This month, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich used an Orlando campaign speech to call on a super PAC called Winning Our Future to either fix or scrap a 29-minute video it had made criticizing rival Mitt Romney’s tenure at Bain Capital. Gingrich, who earlier had sworn off attack ads, said this was the only way he had of addressing concerns raised about the video since he was not allowed by campaign-finance laws to contact the group directly.

If all campaign contributions passed from donors directly to candidates in the cold light of day, citizens could factor that information into their decisions at the polling booth. And the buck would stop with the candidate, not some faceless PAC, if campaign ads made claims that are untrue.

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