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Are SuperPACs Good For Democracy?

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
September 18, 2012

Money is flowing through this election season like never before. The proliferation is due in part to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and other recent rulings, which paved the way for superPACs, other outside groups and massive, secret donations from individuals, corporations and unions.

Those in favor of fewer regulations argue it’s a matter of free speech, one that requires funding to be heard. They consider limiting spending a way of also controlling speech. But others say spending has gotten out of hand, drowning out constituents who don’t have much money and even corrupting the political process.

A panel of experts took on the issue in the latest Intelligence Squared U.S. debate. They faced off two against two in an Oxford-style debate on the motion, “Money In Politics Is Still Overregulated.”

Before the debate, 19 percent of the audience supported the motion, and 63 percent were against. Eighteen percent were undecided. Afterward, 22 percent were in favor, while 69 percent disagreed — making those arguing against the motion the winners.

The Sept. 12 debate was moderated by ABC News’ John Donvan. Those debating were:

FOR THE MOTION

David Keating is president of the Center for Competitive Politics. He has served as executive director of Club for Growth, a group dedicated to economic freedom; executive vice president of the National Taxpayers Union; and executive director of Americans for Fair Taxation, a group that supports the “FairTax” to replace the income tax.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and Reason.com. His weekly column, distributed by Creators Syndicate, is carried by newspapers across the U.S., including the New York Post and the Chicago Sun-Times. Sullum is the author of Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use (2003) and For Your Own Good: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health (1998). In 2004, he received the Thomas S. Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties and in 2005 he received the Drug Policy Alliance’s Edward M. Brecher Award for Achievement in the Field of Journalism.

AGAINST THE MOTION

Trevor Potter is a former commissioner (1991–1995) and chairman (1994) of the U.S. Federal Election Commission. He is the founder, president and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center. Potter served as general counsel to the 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns of John McCain. He is also an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale, where he leads the firm’s political law practice. He is also notable for appearing on the television program The Colbert Report to discuss the founding and progress of the Colbert superPAC.

Jonathan Soros is chief executive officer of JS Capital Management, a private investment firm. He is also a senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, a think tank based in New York City. Soros is a member of the Next Generation Leadership Board of the Indian School of Business and holds several board positions affiliated with the Open Society Foundations. Prior to founding JS Capital, Soros worked with Soros Fund Management. Soros has clerked for Judge Stephen F. Williams of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; served as assistant director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems’ mission to Moldova; and co-founded the Fair Trial Initiative, a nonprofit that seeks to improve the quality of defense available to defendants facing the death penalty. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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