Editorial: Unsettling presence of PACs

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that money was speech, and any limit on independent campaign spending was improper, most observers correctly foresaw the imminent creation of massive and secretive political action committees weaseling their way into races large and small.

Few, though, would have guessed the controversial Citizens United decision would one day affect races in Burbank. But that day is here.

The ruling begot the so-called Super PACs that accept and spend unlimited amounts on the campaigns they target, funded by donors able to give vast sums anonymously. This, in turn, leaves individual candidates scrambling to find their own money to compete, and dramatically increases the cost of running for office.

Locally, a PAC sponsored by a labor union has raised $20,000 to unseat incumbent Burbank City Councilman Jess Talamantes. Another group has spent $13,000 to support two candidates for the Burbank Unified school board, David Dobson and Charlene Tabet, more than either candidate has spent on their own campaigns.

While these sums might not appear to be huge, slick mailers that can confuse voters or hide the intent of the entity behind it are, to put it mildly, troubling.

But this is the new reality. An engaged citizenry must now scrutinize the source of every mailer, every door hanger and every ad. Try to determine the agenda of each, and take that into account when deciding whom to believe.

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