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Poll: Campaign spending irks American voters

A new survey by The Associated Press and the National Constitution Center indicates that Americans don’t like all the millions and millions of dollars that are being tossed around in this year’s elections, especially by the super political action committees.

Estimates are that in the presidential and congressional races this year, $5.8 billion will be spent to sway voters at the polls. A good chunk of that — $2.5 billion — is expected to be spent just to settle who occupies the Oval Office in the White House for four years.

In the poll of more than 1,000 Americans with a margin of error of 3.9 percent, pollsters found that a whopping 83 percent thought there should be limits on how much money corporations, unions and the like can throw in to influence voters.

That’s encouraging from one standpoint in that the people surveyed at least had the sense that political spinmeisters were attempting to get into their heads, though our guess is that in a country as deeply divided as ours, an unsettlingly large number of voters see the problem of political spending as being exclusive to the “other” side.

But the question was moot in one respect: The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Super PACs can do exactly what they’re doing — shoveling an unconscionable amount of money into buying influence with politicians under the auspices that it’s “free speech.”

It may be speech, as the fellow says, but it sure ain’t free.

While we agree that a Super PAC or anyone else should have free speech, we don’t agree that they should be able to throw in this kind of money anonymously. If you have something to say about a political campaign that’s worth a million dollars to you — or $1,000, for that matter — it ought to be important enough for you to be willing to be associated with it.

It’s understandable, however, why donors don’t want anyone to know who they are. When you see the attack propaganda that comes out of supporters for both major parties, there’s rarely a reason mentioned as to why you should vote for their candidate. Instead, the purpose of their message is to make you absolutely fearful of the opposing candidate, whose election will surely be a precursor to the fall of the Republic as we know it.

There are two things that a Super PAC wants to happen to you, the voter: Either you are so fearful that you will go out and vote for their preference, or you will be so disgusted by their smear that you at least won’t bother to vote for the candidate they oppose. They win either way.

They do this for a reason. It works. It’s a lot easier for a voter to listen to attack ads and make up his or her mind about a candidate from that spewed garbage than it is to look at issues and demand workable ideas for solutions.

Voters, of course, can control this and it won’t require a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling to protect us from ourselves. Ignore the ads. Turn the channel when they come on with their mean-spirited messages. Write a handwritten letter to any candidate — both those you support and oppose — stating your utter disappointment in their behavior and the behavior of their hidden monied “friends.”

It’s easy to tell a pollster that you’re against attack ads, but not so easy to back up that assertion.

America will get better politicians and better leaders only when we demand them. Today would be a wonderful time to start.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board