Nineteen weeks before the elections, and already the airwaves are clogged with competing political commercials.
Many are funded by so-called Super PACs, political action committees that are allowed to collect unlimited sums from companies, unions and individuals, and then spend that money supporting or attacking candidates.
Every Super PAC commercial flashes microscopic text at the end, lawfully stating which group paid for the ad. This is a huge inside joke, because the names of the actual donors are on file with the Federal Election Commission and never listed in the commercials. Otherwise voters might get suspicious.
Super PACs also are, on paper, independent. That means candidates who benefit from the attack ads can conveniently disavow any involvement with their content.
If youre starting a Super PAC, the most important thing (besides having suck-up billionaire friends) is choosing a feel-good name that looks solid at the end of your ads. No matter how venal and selfish your motives might be, the name of your fund-raising machine should always be sturdy and patriotic.
One of the biggest Republican Super PACs is called American Crossroads, which sounds like the title of a Woody Guthrie folk song but is in fact a tool of Karl Rove, the smear-and-fear guru who ran the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush.
American Crossroads has raised about $30 million, most of which is being spent on commercials bashing President Barack Obama. The credibility of its ads is immeasurably enhanced by not mentioning the connection to Rove, who isnt widely beloved.
Overall, the GOP does a craftier job of naming its Super PACs than Democrats do.
Mitt Romneys main Super PAC is called Restore Our Future, which suggests a broad grass-roots movement. In reality, the group is bankrolled by hotel and home developers, Wall Street investment firms, coal companies and a few super-rich guys who are chiefly interested in their own futures.
Still, its a darn good front better than calling it Restore Our Tax Breaks.
By contrast, the top Super PAC supporting Obama is Priorities USA Action, which sounds like a lame combat video game. Whos the dweeb that came up with this?
Supporters of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (remember him?) formed a Super PAC inspiringly called Make Us Great Again, which raised about $5.6 million despite backing a candidate who displayed the debating skills of a sleep-deprived toll-both attendant.
Ron Pauls biggest Super PAC was unassailably titled Endorse Liberty, while Rick Santorums supporters poured $8.4 million into a chest thumper called Red, White & Blue.
Then there was Newt Gingrich, whose Super PAC trumped archrival Romneys Restore Our Future with one called Winning Our Future.
It raised almost $24 million, the largest contributor being a casino tycoon named Sheldon Adelson whose enchantment with Newt wasnt contagious. However, none of the Super PACs brutal TV attacks on Romney noted Adelsons role as Gingrichs Vegas sugar daddy.
What a great system!
Adelson recently gave $10 million to Romneys Super PAC, and hell spend many millions more trying to defeat Obama and certain members of Congress. Youll never see his name in any of the commercials.
Last week, Adelson donated $250,000 to Florida Gov. Rick Scotts PAC, cheerily titled Lets Get To Work. The contribution which surely wasnt intended to influence Scotts views on upcoming casino legislation was a boost for the Republican governor, whose poll numbers are at naked-zombie levels.