Finally it’s arrived: High-rolling fat-cat campaign finance for the rest of us! The days when it took Donald Trump’s bank account and a battalion of lawyers to buy and sell political candidates like bags of potatoes are behind us. Now anybody with access to a computer, 20 minutes to spare and a low boredom threshold can set up a political action committee to funnel unlimited campaign contributions to the issue or candidate of his choice, no matter how weird, prankish or — let’s be honest here —stupid.
Seriously — well, “seriously” is probably not exactly the right word, but you get it — nothing is too bizarre, too arcane or too ridiculous to have its own super PAC. If you’re sick of American politicians who badmouth Darth Vader, you can give money to The Empire Strikes PAC, which helps candidates who favor “the construction of a safer, more x-wing resistant Death Star.”
And if you grieve that we haven’t had a bewhiskered president in the 122 years since Benjamin Harrison left the White House, send all the money you want to Bearded Entrepreneurs for the Advancement of a Responsible Democracy (that’s right, BEARD PAC), which imperiously decrees that “the time is now to bring facial hair back into politics.”
And yes, there’s even a PAC for the uncounted hordes who believe Virginia psychologist Anna Hornberger’s cat Xavier would make a good president: the My Cat Xavier for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow PAC. (Even you dog people have to admit that a president who comes with a full-time shrink attached is an idea whose time may have arrived.)
When the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for Super PACS in 2010 with a pair of decisions — Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission and SpeechNOW.org v. Federal Elections Commission — that established the rights of Americans to make unlimited campaign contributions as long as they go to independent committees and not directly to candidates or political parties, some political scientists predicted disastrous corruption. Others foresaw a robust expansion of the First Amendment.
What nobody expected is that creating super PACS would turn into a sort of performance art that, depending on your perspective, either joyously celebrates or cynically mocks the American political system.