Sunday, February 5, 2012

PAC-Man Gone Bad: Icon Represents Unfair Elections Today


Dave Stancliff/For the Times-Standard

Posted:   02/05/2012 02:40:03 AM PST

When Pac-Man, the arcade game, was released it caused a social phenomenon that spurred sales of cross-merchandising throughout the U.S. It became an icon for the 1980s.

Pac-Man is the highest-grossing video of all time. According to the Davie-Brown Index, it has the highest brand awareness of any video game character among American consumers and is recognized by 94 percent of them.

Up until a year ago, when I heard comments about Super-PACs, the thought of that entertaining little yellow gobbling face made me smile. Now that iconic image has been perverted into a political Pac-Man with unlimited support from special interests.

This is the year of the Super-PAC. Randy Cable of South Carolina's conservative talk radio station WORD put it in context during a recent interview. “They're (Super-PACs) a game changer,” he said.

I couldn't agree more. This is the first presidential race to feel the influence of Super-PACS, political action committees that can receive unlimited money from individuals, corporations and unions. Think about that.

Thanks to our Supreme Corporate Court, some of the emerging Super-PACS are nothing more than powerful outside organizations devoted to electing a president of their choice.

It's early in the race, but Super-PACs are clearly outspending candidate committees two to one. That means they control the air time and limit their opponents' opportunity to reply to the lies and false information they spew. It makes for an uneven fight from the start.

“These Super-PACs don't have reputations to protect, so I think there is a tendency for them to get nastier in the ads that they run, and they don't have the same restraints operating on them as candidate committees do,” said Ellen Weintraub, member of the Federal Election Commission in a recent interview.

Every presidential candidate has a Super-PAC supporting his campaign this year. The Super-PACs are supposed to operate independently of the candidates, meaning they can't communicate directly with the politicians and their campaign staff.

Actually, the Super-PACs are run by people who know what the candidates think. Many of them are former staffers and advisers to the presidential candidates.

For example, a Democratic Super-PAC founded by two former aides to President Obama, “Priorities USA,” is busy running an ad campaign trashing Mitt Romney, who is beginning to look like the GOP's pick for the presidency.

Another good example is Romney's campaign, supported by the Super-PAC called “Restore Our Future.” Carl Forti, a former political director for Romney, helped launch “Restore Our Future.” He said the PAC will have raised between $300 million and $350 million by the end of January.

Newt Gingrich is supported by the Super-PAC “Winning Our Future,” which is heavily funded (a reported $10 million) by billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

“I don't think it's buying a presidency any more than it was when Joe Kennedy helped his son,” Sig Rogich, a veteran Republican operative who serves as Adelson's government affairs consultant, said in an interview about the massive donations that the casino mogul has made to Gingrich's Super-PAC.

The Citizens United Supreme Court decision in 2010 allowed these unique political action committees (Super-PACs) to form. In the case of Citizens United against the Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Corporate Court ultimately ruled that the government could not limit political spending by corporations. Big surprise there, huh? Don't expect your vote to count for much this election.

Let's get real. We face enough challenges with other forms of election fraud. Letting the Super-PACs gobble up our remaining chances for a fair election is the last straw. What chance do common Americans have when candidates openly try to purchase tpac3dthumbsuphe presidency with the blessing of the highest court in our land?

It's really sad to think about the entertaining little yellow ball with the big mouth that use to make many people happy and is now being associated with corporate greed and voter fraud.

As It Stands, the other day I saw a cartoon of Pac-Man gulping down wads of cash and couldn't help thinking the artist should have added our Bill of Rights!

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