Former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich spoke with Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert on Tuesday and appeared to suggest that he, like the comedian, was done defending super PACs.
A day earlier, Colbert retired his "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" super PAC, which he'd created to underscore the negative effects of unlimited money allowed to flow into electoral politics after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling.
On Tuesday, Gingrich offered pointed criticism of the ruling's most visible byproduct.
"I think super PACs as such are in fact very dangerous in the long run," Gingrich told Colbert. "There's something fundamentally, profoundly wrong about what's happening. And it's happening in both parties, and in the long run it's going to be very negative and very destructive of our system."
Gingrich hasn't always felt this way. At the time of the court's decision in early 2010, he argued that it had granted “the right of every citizen, whether you agree or disagree, to get up and be heard, to speak, to have space in politics.” And the former speaker himself was a heavy beneficiary of super PAC spending during his failed campaign for president earlier this year. Winning Our Future, a super PAC supporting his candidacy, received at least $15 million in donations from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson alone.
But after serving as a punching bag for a super PAC supporting eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney ahead of the Iowa caucuses, Gingrich appeared less pleased with Citizens United's impact on elections. Despite his unhappiness with being the primary target of the super PAC's attacks, Gingrich refused to take the opportunity to oppose Citizens United more broadly.
”I’m the victim of one personal person, Mitt Romney, whose staff decided to run a deliberately negative and dishonest campaign,” Gingrich said in January. "This particular approach, I think, has nothing to do with the Citizens United case, it has to do with a bunch of millionaires getting together to run a negative campaign, and Governor Romney refusing to call them off.”
On Tuesday, Gingrich appeared to admit that super PACs, which were ultimately responsible for more than $625 million in spending over the 2012 election cycle, allowed candidates with the highest number of wealthy backers to have an unfair advantage over those who had fewer.
"It turned out 26 billionaires beat one," Gingrich said of Romney's supporters compared to his. "This was a great revelation to us," he added jokingly.