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Rick Santorum Decried PAC Influence In 1994

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WASHINGTON -- As a college student and a young politician, Rick Santorum argued that spending by political action committees was inherently unfair. Candidates who were most likely to win election would draw the most donor support, he said, which in turn only made them more likely to end up winning election.

Santorum addressed the topic in 1980 as a student at Penn State University, in a thesis entitled "Political Action Committees in Pennsylvania: A Survey of Their Structure And Effects." Even then, it was hardly a radical supposition. There was already literature and data showing as much. But while Santorum ignored his own argument while serving in Congress, his presidential campaign is currently proving its prescience.

"Why is it that a certain business PAC will endorse an incumbent who voted against that PAC eighty percent of the time?" he wrote in the thesis. "Or, why is it that a certain candidate, who is in total agreement with the PAC's views, will receive no endorsement? The answer lies in the desire of the organization to support as many winners as possible. PACs, as will be discussed later, are a business and like any good business do not want to risk money on poor investments."

Fourteen years later, he was sounding the same exact note. In a radio interview with WHJB 620 AM, during the height of his bid to unseat Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), Santorum blamed a political culture that relied on PACs for producing unbalanced elections. The transcript of the interview was included in a file of documents, obtained by The Huffington Post, that the Wofford campaign kept on Santorum during the course of the race.

"The thing that disturbs [me] more than anything else about political action committees is they tend to give to incumbents more than they do to challengers," Santorum said in the interview, which took place Sept. 26, 1994. "They [do] not give to people who support their positions; they end up giving because they think the person is going to win. They give them the money which insures them that they are going to win. I don't think you have that proper balance, which you would with an individual who is more likely to support someone because they are philosophically in line with the direction of the country that that person would like the country to go."

At other points during that campaign, Santorum made similar arguments. In a questionnaire he filled out for the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat in April 1994, he was asked what could be done to make "Congressmen more accountable" to the voters.

"One of the focuses I've sharpened my teeth on is to get laws that require at least half your funding to come from your district and to limit the amount of PAC contributions, " he replied. "That to me, I think, would help adjust members back to their district where they need to be, not focused on Washington D.C., and really hanging out at Washington too much, which I think is important."

As noted by Mother Jones, which reported parts of the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat interview Tuesday morning, Santorum rarely ended up practicing what he preached.

Santorum voted in March 1997 against a bipartisan measure co-sponsored by fellow Pennsylvania GOP Sen. Arlen Specter that would let Congress control federal campaign spending and permit states to set fundraising and spending limits in state and local campaigns. Years later, during his second term in the Senate, he voted against the McCain-Feingold bill that limited so-called "issue advocacy" ads and banned soft money—unlimited and unregulated corporate and union cash contributed to both parties.

The pieces of legislation that he opposed would have done little, if anything, to impede the proliferation of super PAC spending today -- spending that evolved out of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision and, unlike regular PAC spending, is not subject to caps. But it is still telling that Santorum is now a victim of the tendency of PACs to be drawn to winners, a trend he previously documented.

A review of campaign finance filings shows that during the current presidential election cycle, Santorum has raised $48,632 from PACs, candidate committees, and state candidate committees. Mitt Romney has raised $437,898 from those same entities. Meanwhile, according to ProPublica, Mitt Romney's allied super PAC, Restore our Future, has spent $34 million backing his candidacy. The Santorum-backing super PAC, Red White and Blue Fund, has spent $5.9 million.

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