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Magazine / Congressional Insiders Poll

Congressional Insiders Poll

November 3, 2011

Does the emergence of super PACs focused on congressional elections give candidates a smaller voice in their own campaigns?

Democrats (19 Votes)

Yes: 100%
No: 0%



“Money talks, and voters often can’t tell the difference between the talkers. The voices of actual candidates may be drowned out.”

“The sheer volume of money by outside groups is going to drown out some campaigns completely.”

“Super PACs have the ability to drown out the campaign messages of challengers and incumbents alike in some races.”

“Just as the campaign committees and interest groups can play an unsolicited and unwelcome role in campaigns—even when they think they’re working in your favor—super PACs certainly have that potential.”

“The money chase was already insane. Super PACs just make it worse.”

“A tsunami of special-interest money is hobbling [effective] representation.”

“Super PACs kill grassroots representational democracy.”

“It will super-power outside groups, enabling them to play the role that national parties used to with soft money, only with less accountability and coordination.”

“More and more, outside groups will take away the ability of candidates to set up their own campaigns. In addition, the attacks will come not from opponents but from other groups. This is not a good way to run our election campaigns.”

“Since nothing is reported, candidates won’t know until it’s over.”

“Of course. We become pawns in a much larger game.”


Does the emergence of super PACs focused on congressional elections give candidates a smaller voice in their own campaigns?

Republicans (21 Votes)

Yes: 14%
No: 76%
Not sure (volunteered): 10%


“It is a bit unsettling to think that for races in either the House or Senate that make the national target list, the candidates will no longer rise or fall on their own fundraising ability, because the outside groups will carpet bomb their media market.”

“The more competitive the race, the less control the candidate and now even the campaign committees will have. Super PACs will determine who runs Congress. They are neither transparent nor accountable. How can this possibly be a good thing?”


“Candidates have just as much opportunity through the use of alternative mediums to get their message out. It does increase the role that certain issues will have in certain targeted elections. Super PACs are simply the unintended consequence of misguided campaign finance laws.”

“There has always been outside money in races. In 2008, outside groups spent $6 million in my race (before super PACs). In the end, as long as a candidate does his or her job (of raising enough money and telling their story well), they can win.”

“The impact is most felt by the congressional campaign committees. There is less of an incentive for big donors to give big contributions to the committees, where the funds are both limited by the [Federal Election Commission] and disclosed.”

“[No], but it can drive messages that candidates may or may not want to focus on.”

“[Super PACs give candidates] a larger voice—these PACs can override the inaction of the parties in specific races and can help combat insider rigging of elections.”

“It will give [candidates] a larger voice because they will have (indirect) access to the resources they need to compete successfully in an era of 360-degree, 24-hour media.”

Not sure

“With super PACs being relatively new, it remains to be seen how they will impact individual candidates and their campaigns.”

“Good question. No one knows.”


Grade the performances so far this year of these congressional leaders.

Democrats (18 votes)

House Speaker John Boehner: C
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: B-
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: C+
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: C


B+. “This is as high as anyone could get when leading the current crew.”

B+. “Given the factions in his caucus and a No. 2 laying down banana peels in his path, it’s testament to his skill [that] he’s still the leader.”

B. “Boehner is riding a tiger and hasn’t been eaten yet.”

B. “He can’t deliver on his agreements, but faced with Obama his incompetence looks sharp!”

D. “Boehner is the weakest speaker in living memory, largely because he oversees an unstable majority.”


A. “She has no cards, but she has out-raised Republicans for the next election, recruited better candidates, and raised the ratings of Democrats even though the Democratic president is a disaster.”

B+. “Rock-star fundraising, and she held her caucus together well as the opposition party.”

B-. “She has finally learned to take a step back from the public eye but still thinks money is the only measure.”


B-. “He tries, but he doesn’t even have the support of all Dems.”

C. “Looks weak. Maybe the Senate rules are rigged against anything happening in this environment, but it always looks like [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell is one step ahead.”

D-. “This may the highest grade any Senate leader can ever get.”

D-. “Reid is proving he’s as ineffective with 53 votes as he was with 60.”


A. “McConnell is as effective as he is devious and disingenuous.”

B+. “Grumpy old man who gives the country the creeps still scores wins for the Republican minority.”

D. “I don’t remember the last time that he said anything new.”


Grade the performances so far this year of these congressional leaders.

Republicans (21 votes)

House Speaker John Boehner: B+
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi: D+
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: D-
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: B-


A. “Boehner has to deal with a Democrat president and Democrat Senate and has been amazing in negotiations.”

A-. “Boehner has been adroit in guiding a fractious young majority.”

B+. “He will never be a great speaker until he finds or creates a Tom DeLay or Roy Blunt who can routinely give him the 218 votes he needs to win major votes.”

C+. “Boehner has been the first speaker to work in a no-earmark environment, but it has proven difficult for him to control his conference.”


B. “Only because of her fundraising in the minority and strict discipline with which she runs her caucus.”

D. “For Democrats to make gains in the House, they have to move toward the center from Pelosi’s extreme positions and rhetoric.”

F. “Her unwillingness to step down after the 2010 elections divided and demoralized her caucus and gave the GOP a foil for 2012.”


D+. “Reid has a Democrat majority and a Democrat president and can’t get anything done.”

F+. “He’s the leader of the ‘do-nothing’ Senate but gets bonus points for the super-committee idea, which might allow something to get done. That moves him from F- to F+.”

F. “Leader Reid has single-handedly turned the Senate into a legislative cul-de-sac. This has become the most unproductive Senate in the history of the Republic, and he actually seems proud of that.”


A+. “Effective in the midst of chaos.”

B+. “Wily and tough, his only real mistake was saying out loud what most Republicans believe—defeating Obama is the No. 1 political objective.”

B-. “His job in the Senate is to win with less votes, which he does more than half the time.”


Democratic Congressional Insiders Sens. Sherrod Brown, Ben Cardin, Thomas Carper, Christopher A. Coons, Mark Pryor, Tom Udall; Reps. Jason Altmire, Robert Andrews, Tammy Baldwin, Karen Bass, Xavier Becerra, Howard Berman, Lois Capps, Michael Capuano, Dennis Cardoza, James Clyburn, Gerry Connolly, Joseph Crowley, Diana DeGette, Rosa DeLauro, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Bob Filner, Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Marcy Kaptur, Jim Langevin, John Lewis, Zoe Lofgren, Ed Markey, Jim McGovern, Jim Moran, Gary Peters, Collin Peterson, David Price, Linda Sanchez, Allyson Schwartz, Jose Serrano, Bennie Thompson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Henry Waxman, Peter Welch, and Frederica Wilson.

GOP Congressional Insiders Sens. Johnny Isakson, Richard Lugar, David Vitter; Reps. John Boehner, Charles Boustany, Kevin Brady, John Campbell, Eric Cantor, John Carter, Tom Cole, Mike Conaway, Jeff Denham, David Dreier, Sean Duffy, Jo Ann Emerson, Jeff Flake, Scott Garrett, Bob Goodlatte, Trey Gowdy, Kay Granger, Doc Hastings, Nan Hayworth, Mike Kelly, Peter King, Jack Kingston, Adam Kinzinger, John Kline, Dan Lungren, Kenny Marchant, Kevin McCarthy, Patrick McHenry, Candice Miller, Sue Myrick, Devin Nunes, Tom Price, Dave Reichert, Phil Roe, Paul Ryan, Aaron Schock, Adrian Smith, Steve Stivers, Lee Terry, Pat Tiberi, Fred Upton, Daniel Webster, and Joe Wilson.

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