LITTLETON, N.H -- Newt Gingrich, who has faced an onslaught of negative ads funded anonymously by so-called super PACs new to this presidential campaign cycle, says that he thinks these new fundraising operations should be eliminated. Super PACs have sprouted up in the wake of FEC v. Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowing private groups to spend unlimited amount of money on political speech.
Gingrich spoke at a townhall meeting at a small theater in the mountains of northern New Hampshire Thursday. One audience member asked the former House Speaker about the fallout from the Citizens United ruling--and whether he would support publicly financed campaigns to "get money out of politics." Gingrich, who hailed the decision at the time and opposes taxpayer-funded campaigning, proposed a tweak to the new rules that would allow campaigns to accepted an unlimited amount of money so long as they make the donors public online. Under current campaign finance law, supporters can legally donate a maximum of $2,500, but can give unlimited sums to a super PAC.
"I would actually rather support eliminating all of the various rules that stop people, middle class people, from raising money and instead allow people to donate unlimited after-tax money as long as they report it every single night on the Internet," Gingrich said. "Then the candidates would have the money, the candidates would run the ads. And frankly, if Romney would have had to say at the end of each of those ads, 'I approve this,' they wouldn't have run them."
Indeed, Romney has benefited from the new rules by effectively outsourcing campaign mud-slinging to a group not officially affiliated with his campaign. Candidates cannot legally coordinate with these outside organizations, but the Super PACs are often run by former staffers who have spent years working for the candidates. According to a New York Times report, Restore Our Future, a group organized in support of Romney run by his former aides, spent $2.85 million running negative ads against his opponents in Iowa.
There's even a Super PAC that supports Gingrich called Winning Our Future, which in December hired his former staffer, Rick Tyler.
But Gingrich would still do away with the system--and replace it with a procedure forcing campaigns to stand by their ads while still allowing for free political speech, he said.
"These super PACs have huge amounts of money," he said. "They're totally irresponsible, totally secret and I think it's a problem."
In fact, this is an issue on which he and Romney agree.
"We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these super PACs," Romney said during a December appearance on MSNBC, calling the effect of the groups a "disaster."
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