In contrast, even at the end of the campaign, many potential voters will know very little about their congressional candidates. They will be susceptible to ads telling them terrible things. Some of those candidates won’t have the resources to fight back.
No one knows that better than the candidates themselves. Both incumbents and potential challengers realize that a deep-pocketed PAC could decide their race. So when they get a call from that PAC’s director urging them to support this or that, they’re that much likelier to listen. The result, then, isn’t just that moneyed interests can throw congressional elections. It’s that they wield more influence after the election — and they can exercise that power without spending a dollar.
Imagine a super PAC funded by financial interests — “United for Economic Growth,” say — that, seeing tax reform legislation on the horizon, makes it known that it will spend $500,000 or more against candidates who support limiting the deductibility of corporate debt. That’s a small enough issue that most Americans don’t follow candidate positions on it. It’s an issue where there isn’t an organized set of interests on the other side. And it’s an issue where most politicians themselves don’t have very strong or even developed opinions. My guess is United for Economic Growth would get its way in Congress without having to spend much money at all.