Dark Money, Stiper PACs, and the 2012 Election.

Author:Carlin, Diana B.
Position:Book review

Dark Money, Stiper PACs, and the 2012 Election. By Melissa M. Smith and Larry Powell. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2013. 117 pp.

In Dark Money. Super PACs, and the 2012 Election, Melissa M. Smith and Larry Powell follow their previous work on campaign finance reform (Smith et al., Campaign Finance Reform: The Political Shell Game [Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010]) by demonstrating the impact of court decisions on spending, primarily in the 2012 primary and general elections. The volume begins with the 2010 congressional midterm elections, which were the first affected by the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (558 U.S. 310 [2010]) and the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals decision, based on that high court ruling, in SpeechNow.org v. FEC (599 F.3d 686 [D.C. Cir. 2010]). That midterm election saw major Democratic losses in Congress, at least in part because of the party's refusal "to participate in a major change of rules in the election process" (p. 2) that the Republicans "embraced" (p. 1).

The first chapter provides a brief summary of the two decisions that led to the creation of what are now referred to as Super PACs (political action committees). Subsequent chapters identify the major Super PACs for each party, prime contributors to each, their targets of influence, and their impact on both the 2012 presidential campaign, starting with the Republican primary, and on a variety of congressional races. Chapters 2 through 4 detail the key players for each party during the primary season. Chapters 5 through 9 are dedicated to the general election, including a chapter each for President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney. Republican strategist Karl Rove and his Super PAC, American Crossroads--cofounded with former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie--also warrant an entire chapter because of that organization's scope and mixed success. The final two chapters examine first what the authors call "lone mavericks" (p. 99) or individuals who run advertising that educates the public. That chapter, authored by Barry P. Smith, is a case study of Thomas Peterffy--a Hungarian immigrant and founder of "one of the world's largest online brokerage firms" (p. 100)--and his self-funded, single, one-minute ad. The ad combined personal narrative about the American Dream, the threat of socialism to that dream, and a statement of his intent to vote Republican. Because the chapter...

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