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Monday, July 4, 2011

PACs and Patriotic Symbolism

As our chapter on civic culture makes clear, Americans have an attachment to patriotic symbols. At the Center for Responsive Politics, Tarini Parti explains the impact on electoral politics:

PAC PATRIOTISM ON THE RISE: More than 230 years after the U.S. gained independence from the British, buzzwords popular during the Revolution are making a comeback in politics.

Words such as, "Freedom," "Liberty," "Prosperity," "Patriot" and "Constitution" are now being used frequently in the titles of political action committees, the Center for Responsive Politics research indicates.

The number of PACs including the word “freedom” in their title, for example, has more than tripled over the last decade. Similarly, just 16 PACs had "liberty" in their names in 2000; the most current count is 37.

Some PACs, such as the Liberty and Freedom Foundation Ten in 10 PAC, are even doubling up on using those American ideals in their names for an extra sense of patriotism.

Much of the proliferation can be pinned to a very particular political wave: the surge of the Tea Party.

The loose movement known as the Tea Party has sprung several PACs in the last several years, and have shown a real affinity for using some of these pro-democracy monikers. Though it only spent around $10,000 during the 2010 election cycle, Liberty First PAC made waves early in 2010 as one of the first Tea Party-related committees to officially file with the Federal Election Commission. Patriots Fund, a super PAC that registered later during the 2010 election cycle, had a bigger impact: It spent around $42,000 on political advertising in support of Republican candidates during the election.

Left-leaning causes have their shown their own love for similar words, however.

Indeed, there's only one (key) word separating the Patriots Fund PAC with former-Sen. Russ Feingold's leadership PAC, the Progressive Patriots Fund, to name one example.

And liberty lovers on the left need look no further than Patriot Majority, a left-leaning super PAC that sprung up to help Democratic candidates fight off the wave of conservative election spending during the 2010 cycle. It spent about $2.85 million on political advertising, much of it -- nearly $2 million -- on the highly-contested Nevada U.S. Senate race between Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle.