PAC-MAN

What do Pac-Man, Pong, and Space Invaders have in common? You’d be right in saying they’re all computer games from prehistory.

But equally, these are all terms that apply to the U.S. presidential race. Both Trump and Sanders are seen as invaders of a certain sacred space; pong you can take several ways—the ping-pong support posture of Republicans as Trump secured the GOP nomination, or more crudely, the bad smell of many of the presumptive nominee’s policies.

An article in the Washington Post this week argued that Sarah Palin was the spiritual mother of Trump. The Post has systematically opposed Trump from the start, and of course this has led to a Trump versus Bezos spat—I’m sure you’re aware that the founder of Amazon now owns the Post.

Palin was the originator of many astounding comments when she ran with McCain, including the recurring questions about Obama’s nationality—a topic Trump loves to air.

“Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists,” Palin famously said. When the Syrian crisis erupted, she commented “Let Allah sort it out.”

Those and (many) other one-liners enthused her support base, and occasionally deeply embarrassed McCain. No such qualms for Trump.

Which leaves the PAC. Campaign funding is a very complex issue because in today’s media-saturated world running for office is very expensive.

Political Action Committees, or PAC, sound vaguely Soviet-but they're as American as peanut butter.

Political Action Committees, or PAC, sound vaguely Soviet—but they’re as American as peanut butter.

Trump has reportedly spent forty-five million bucks of his own money on the primary run, but he now needs over one billion dollars for the main event.

If Clinton is beholden to Wall Street, and she most certainly is, then Trump will be equally favor-bound by the time he raises the funds he needs. The Political Action Committee, or PAC, and in particular the Super PAC, is where the big donors hide.

In America, corporations are forbidden to donate to candidates, and individual citizens are limited to about $2700. Of course if one million citizens give you a grand, you’re legally at the billion dollar mark. No favors.

Romney and Obama spent a billion each in the 2012 race, which set the bar for 2016. So Super PACs get the heavyweight contributions, and most certainly draw from corporations—it’s where the hedge funds, oil and gas, and all the other special interest groups  come to play.

The Super PAC is nominally independent, but it acts on behalf of or against a candidate. Super PACs were corporate America’s answer to campaign funding law, a neat loophole that allows a group to support the candidate—or not.

Our Principles is a conservative Super PAC that opposes Trump. As of May 13th 2016 it had raised sixteen million dollars and spent eighteen million. This ad is an example of the kind of anti-Trump material they release (Trump’s own antics on the Howard Stern show are far more entertaining).

At the very end of the piece, in a brief blitz of small print, the ad states:

OUR PRINCIPLES PAC PAID FOR AND IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CONTENT OF THIS ADVERTISING. NOT AUTHORIZED BY ANY CANDIDATE OR CANDIDATES COMMITTEE.

You get the picture. There is supposedly no relationship between a candidate and a supporting Super PAC. Ted Cruz, perhaps the man with most derogatory nicknames I’ve ever seen, has (had?) three Super PACs in the top twenty.

But when it comes to these organizations, the list is literally endless. Some have wacky names, like the American Infidel PAC, which boasts a total of sixty bucks, or My Cat Xavier for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Sadly, it has no website—or cash.

There’s also Tack PAC and Shut Down the F*** Barrel, so I get the feeling some citizens may be taking the matter lightly.

But actually it’s not innocuous, because it is a way of tying candidates to corporations.

In the 2010 congressional race, only 13% of candidate funds came from small individual donations. By contrast, the larger donations (48%) will have mainly come through PACs.

These PACs are not the super variety—they are directly connected to the candidates. Corporations and unions also donate to these, but because they can’t do so directly, it will be individuals or members who make the donations. And large PACs can make donations across the board.

The super PACs are nominally unconnected, and are obliged to report donors and amounts—but the origin of funds can be hidden through specially created LLCs.

That’s the way politics rolls in the most powerful nation on earth. I don’t know about Space Invaders, but PAC certainly smells like pong.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

The India Road, Atmos Fear, and Clear Eyes. QR links for smartphones and tablets.

 

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