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How Super PACs Could Help Efforts at State Election Reform

by Doug Goodman, published

A recent Politico article by Byron Tau, analyzing the increasing impact of Super PACs on the ability of state political party organizations to raise money and hence control the candidate selection process, raises an interesting question: Could Super PACs actually help efforts to reform state and local elections?

As Tau points out, fund raising and reporting rules favoring Super PACs are draining state party coffers. This lack of cash diminishes the control state parties have over issues and candidate selection. Outside special interest organizations, focused on maintaining the current rhetoric on national issues, are dictating the election agenda. If allowed to continue, the Republican and Democratic parties at the state level could join the dinosaurs as extinct. How much outside influence will voters and state party leaders tolerate before they realize there is a way to fight back?

By supporting efforts to implement open, nonpartisan primaries or other reforms that lessen the importance of political party affiliation, local political leaders can reclaim the influence they are losing to these Super PACs.

In a top two, three, or four primary, shouldn’t a well-known local candidate do well against a candidate selected by an outside special interest group? If needed, party-favored candidates could register as independent candidates with state party endorsements. In a general election that uses instant runoff, approval, proportional voting, or any other non-plurality system, shouldn’t a candidate backed by local and state organizations do well against a Super PAC’s candidate?

In my opinion, the answer to both these questions is “yes.”

Many times, actions have unintended consequences or results. Perhaps the elimination of state political party organizations was one not anticipated by Super PACs. I’d wager that aiding the effort to reform the election process, reduce the importance of political parties, and return the focus back to real issues and solutions was definitely not considered. Wouldn’t that be something to behold?

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