Marcus Carey on SuperPACs

Kentucky U.S. House candidate Marcus Carey recently put out a web ad that says that his campaign has “no entanglements with Super PACs.”

There are a few ways to interpret this. One, the statement makes it sound like he doesn’t actually understand that his campaign is barred by federal law from coordinating with a supportive Super PAC, so claiming to have “no entanglements” with them may reveal a serious lack of understanding of the basic landscape of electoral politics.

But, if like any good candidate, Carey does clearly understand how federal election law prohibits the very activity that he so proudly eschews, then it sounds a lot more like he’s accusing his opponents of coordinating with SuperPACs that support their candidacy. He would seem to imply that his opponents are violating federal law.

Of course he’s not saying that. What I believe Carey means to say is that he’s not encumbered by having “big money” supporters, turning the liability of fewer monied supporters into a campaign strength of the appearance of relative independence and principle. Unfortunately, the populism that goes along with demonizing Super PACs means rejecting much of the First Amendment and making false logical leaps about the nature of corruption.

For anyone who cares about vigorous and freewheeling debate that the First Amendment protects, it’s important to note the cynicism of a candidate who believes that because wealthy people like a campaign, that candidate is therefore compromised and corrupted. That equation – financial support for a candidate’s run equals explicit corruption – is the kind of thinking that gave us the freedom-harming incumbent-protecting McCain-Feingold campaign finance laws.

I’ve met Marcus Carey. He seems more circumspect and earnest than this kind of political game would suggest.