Super-PACs in congressional races, too

Jan. 25, 2012 at 12:16 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 25 (UPI) -- Third-party political action committees, flexing their muscle in the Republican presidential tilt, also are focusing on U.S. congressional races, observers say.

Federal Election Commission records indicate third-party organizations such as super-PACs injected nearly $9 million into advertising and other independent-spending line items to support or oppose congressional candidates already during this election cycle, USA Today reported Wednesday.

Super-PAC spending on Capitol Hill races could "skew election results" and influence policy, Richard Hasen, a campaign finance expert and law professor at University of California-Irvine, told USA Today.

"It's easy for someone with a couple million dollars to influence the outcome of a House race," Hasen said.

Once elected, lawmakers could have the sense of being "beholden to the large contributors to a super-PAC as they are to people who contribute to their campaigns," he said.

Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren this week signed a pledge to discourage third-party activity in their highly watched Senate race. Although political candidates are barred from coordinating with third-party organizations, Brown and Warren said they were trying to lessen super-PAC participation by agreeing to donate to a charity of the other candidate's choice whenever a third-party group broadcasts an ad for its favored candidate or attacking the opponent.

University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie told USA Today such an agreement was "meaningless."

"Candidates, especially incumbents, don't like to have money they can't control coming into an election," Gaddie said. "But they have no power or ability to keep third-party groups out."

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