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Fighting the PAC mentality

Summertime in an election year in Colorado always has a certain excitement. Candidates marching in parades, petitioners gathering signatures at festivals ... some years we even get regular visits from the presidential candidates. Coloradans experience democracy in action well before Election Day.

This summer, Colorado has a sneak preview of the new face of political campaigns. As a key presidential swing state, we are already being bombarded with nonstop political ads. In mid-July, four months before the presidential election, three of the top four media markets in the country for political spending were in Colorado. And as the election approaches, the amount of ads in our state will only increase.

The problem of money in politics is not a new one, but with recent court rulings, it's gotten a whole lot worse. The 5-4 Citizens United v. FEC ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court extended logic from previous court cases that argued that corporations deserve the same constitutional rights as real people.

Further, the court ruled as a matter of law that spending on political campaigns cannot possibly corrupt our electoral system so long as the spending is technically done independently of candidates. This logic is what created the so-called super PACs, which have come to dominate presidential and congressional campaigns.

According to the new report "Million-Dollar Megaphones" by the CoPIRG Foundation andDemos, two nonpartisan groups, of the $230 million raised by super PACs from individuals in the first two quarters of the 2012 election cycle, more than half (57.1 percent) came from just 47 people giving at least $1 million. Fewer than 1,100 donors giving $10,000 or more were responsible for 94 percent of this fundraising.