In today's political and media arenas it comes as no surprise that for some lobbying organizations, time is essential. Last week, an organization called "Stop Hillary PAC" published a controversial video attacking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a potential candidate for the American presidency. Those in the know remember that this is nearly 30 months before the Iowa caucuses are to be held for the 2016 election. According to its website, "Stop Hillary PAC was created for one reason only — to ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States." The language is explicit, as is the message: join to stop an individual from holding public office, and be sure to donate generously.
Such a group exemplifies the now-commonplace tendency of political action groups to see their interests steer a campaign. "Stop Hillary," however, seems to be a bit much. Regardless of political leanings, one cannot help but consider the implications of such an organization on the democratic process. To be clear, Clinton has issued no formal announcement of candidacy. Yet this particular organization has taken upon itself enormous initiative to prevent even her potential candidacy.
The dangers of groups like these seem to unfold progressively. Teddy Roosevelt warned of the corporate connection between money and politics in 1910 in Osawatomie, Kansas, when he remarked, "The great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics … The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation."
Since 1910, Congress has struggled mightily to keep moneyed interests at bay in the political process. The names Russ Feingold and John McCain enter recent memory, but when the past two challengers to sitting presidents (John Kerry and Mitt Romney) combine for a net worth of nearly $500 million USD, it becomes difficult to believe political parties do not consider wealth a positive, even determining characteristic for presidential candidates. And for those who stand against wealthy candidates, money seems to be the only way to affect their public image.
However, Clinton is no stranger to wealth. She and her husband, former President of the United States Bill Clinton, occupy the number seven and six spots respectively on Huffington Post's "Richest Candidates to Ever Run for Office." It seems logical that an organization fixed on halting Clinton's hypothetical candidacy before it can even be considered would fight metaphorical fire with fire.
Nonetheless, "Stop Hillary PAC" seems a bit too transparent to simply be a vehicle through which Republican citizens can create a mass fund dedicated to putting Clinton out of the race before it begins. The site's "About" section includes a brief manifesto and a list of Clinton's policies, decisions, and characteristics with which the organization takes major issue.
This is not merely a fund raising group — it is a collection of like-minded voters collectivizing to publicize a certain message and a certain policy mindset. It is, in essence, much more of a political party or affiliation than it is a PAC, which stands for "Political Action Committee." A PAC traditionally collects money from a group of people and doles donations out to various candidates (or against others) to help influence an election.
Thus, the "Stop Hillary PAC" seems to be an all-around misnomer. The site claims to be dedicated to stopping Clinton from gaining office, but does not contribute money to any other candidate or any particular political cause. The site itself includes a disclaimer: "Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee." Essentially, the group collects money to "stop" Clinton from doing something she has indicated no official intention to do by donating funds raised to no particular campaign or candidate.
The organization might be afforded some credibility if its ideological standpoint held water or provided more detailed policy discrepancies, disagreements, or alternatives. Instead, it simply states, "The American way of life is under attack" by, ostensibly, Hillary Clinton as the "liberal standard-bearer." While the group lists some of Clinton's controversial decisions, it is less an indication of her lack of credibility to serve as commander-in-chief and more a list of policy stances that specify what Clinton might form her platform around. The group modifies its statement by saying "We could go on and on and on …" while the reader cannot help but wonder why a PAC looking to influence the highest election in our nation does not do just that.
The website is young, not yet one week old, and its leadership may still be forming. Currently, it seems to be a bit one-sided. A quick glance at the "Team" section of the website reveals a small leadership of five executive officers, all white males with more information in their profile descriptions than is included in the list of Clinton's decisions contributing to the "destructive far-left, liberal cancer that's trying to transform America." Perhaps some variety in opinion, background, or occupation might serve the organization well in organizing a more comprehensive affront to Clinton's (again) hypothetical candidacy.
What "Stop Hillary PAC" really suggests is the ability for a group of similar-thinking individuals to create a website, attach a political title to its header, and offer critique of individuals not yet elected to public office. No doubt their opinions are protected under the First Amendment; such an insinuation would be an insult to the Constitution's framers. The central issue behind "Stop Hillary" becomes, then, should such a group be allowed to call itself a PAC, a title lending it more political legitimacy than it retains and more media time than it deserves?
Roosevelt's fear of corporate money infiltrating politics in 1910 is an all-but-guaranteed reality in today's political arena. Even Barack Obama's net worth comes in around five million dollars (comparatively low even when examined alongside figures like John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and the Bush family), a hefty sum for any American voter to consider average. Perhaps corporate wealth is not the only form of fund raising to fear. An organization like "Stop Hillary" can attach a politically-recognized (albeit erroneous) title to its cause and receive mainstream media coverage. CNN reported on the organization, providing, not surprisingly, little detail on the organization's grievances or political allegiances, other than summarizing its leadership and offering a few choice bites from Chairman Ted Harvey's statement.
It seems, then, that the organization marks the infiltration of not corporate money, but opinionated money, even hypothetical money. If organizations like "Stop Hillary PAC" continue to flood the web and media feeds, the nation will no longer face simply the financial influence of the robber baron or the captain of industry. Now, such moneyed interests will receive support from the fund raising and advocacy of groups like this, pushing intellectual homogeneity. Such an alliance would certainly threaten public, rigorous, and meaningful debate among nominees for elected positions.
Perhaps the "Stop Hillary PAC" would be an easier pill to swallow if Clinton had announced an intention to run. Although its legality proves tough to dispute, one cannot help but wonder why, in an age where many voters admit to choosing the lesser of two evils, any individual would want to shorten the playing field of political nominees. A wide field of candidates defined by policies and issue stances (not media portraits, paychecks, or campaign contributions) may be exactly what groups of people like those running "Stop Hillary" fear the most.