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No, Elizabeth Warren – taking Super Pac money is not girl power

Closing the gender Pac gap

“I’m not cozying up to Super Pacs,” Elizabeth Warren promised in an advert that ran over 2,000 times in Iowa. It’s a message the Democrat has repeated throughout her campaign: she’s grassroots-funded and is fighting against the corrupting influence of big money in politics.
Ah, how times have changed. Just a few weeks after tweeting she “won’t take a dime of Pac money”, Warren now has what appears to be the biggest Super Pac advertising presence in crucial Super Tuesday states. Persist Pac, which was formed by female Warren supporters ahead of the Nevada caucuses, announced on Thursday night that it is investing $9m in adverts across California, Texas and Massachusetts. This follows a separate $3m ad buy across 13 Super Tuesday states and a $2m buy in Nevada and South Carolina. Which means Persist Pac has now spent $14m on ads for Warren; money she seems very happy cozying up to.
So what caused this flip-flop? Feminism, apparently. Speaking the Thursday before last, Warren complained that “all of the men who were still in this race and on the debate stage … had either Super Pacs, or they were multibillionaires … And the only people who didn’t have them were the two women. And at that point, there were some women around the country who said, ‘You know, that’s just not right.’” The gender Pac gap swiftly closed; now Amy Klobuchar and Warren both have Super Pac support. Girl power at its finest!
I don’t completely begrudge Warren taking Super Pac money. Her campaign has been flagging; flooding Super Tuesday markets with expensive ad buys is probably her best chance at changing that. However, I do begrudge the highly disingenuous way she framed her Super Pac backtrack as some sort of feminist position. There is nothing remotely feminist about using gender as an excuse to abandon your principles and embrace big money. Feminism is supposed to be about dismantling oppressive systems, not aligning yourself with them.
Let’s remind ourselves exactly what Super Pacs are, shall we? Spawned by the supreme court’s 2010 Citizens United v Federal Election Commission ruling, they are “political action committees”, which are allowed to accept unlimited political donations from individuals and corporations. They are supposed to be independent and can’t contribute directly to a campaign or coordinate with candidates; however, Super Pacs frequently circumvent these rules. In short, they allow the extremely wealthy to avoid the caps on individual contributions; they give a small group of people an outsized impact on elections. They are disastrous for democracy.
Is Warren’s claim that “all” the non-billionaires running, including Bernie Sanders, have Super Pac support correct? Sort of. It is true that a coalition called People Power for Bernie includes a Super Pac affiliated with the national nurses union, and a non-profit Sanders founded called Our Revolution, which functions in a similar way to a Super Pac. However, in response to a recent Intercept inquiry, Our Revolution said it only received a total of six donations over $5,000 in 2019 and its biggest contribution was around $25,000. It hasn’t taken money from any billionaires. It is fair to accuse Sanders of a degree of hypocrisy around Super Pacs, but it is hugely disingenuous to claim that the support he gets from nurses and contributors to Our Revolution is equivalent to the other candidates’ Super Pacs. Sanders is very much running a grassroots campaign.
Who are the donors behind the $14m of pro-Warren Super Pac spending? Nobody really knows. Because the Persist Pac was formed so late it is legally able to keep its donors secret until 20 March, by which time a majority of delegates will be allocated. Warren’s campaign hasn’t responded to requests for comment about whether the Super Pac should make its donors known earlier. Once again, I can understand why she would feel forced to accept Super Pac support. However, it is beyond the pale that she won’t disavow a group that refuses to disclose its donors until after much of the primary voting has already taken place. The fact that the “men” running may embrace big money and eschew transparency is no excuse. Warren has asked other candidates to put their money where their mouth is. Being a woman doesn’t exempt her from doing the same.

Scotland may become first country to make menstruation products free

The Period Products Bill which would provide free sanitary pads and tampons to “anyone who needs them”, passed its first legislative hurdle on Tuesday. As the Economist notes, “The prevalence of women in Scottish politics seems to be one reason why Scotland looks like achieving a world first on this issue.”

Finnish football drops the ‘women’ label

The Finnish FA is one of the few organisations in world football that has equal pay for their men’s and women’s national teams. Now they’re going a step further: the country’s top division of women’s football will be called the National League instead of the Women’s League in a push for “full equality.

People who watch more TV find thinner women more attractive

While western media is often blamed for promoting “thin ideals” it has been hard to actually quantify its effect on attitudes. Researchers at the University of Durham, however, have just published a fascinating study that tracks residents in remote Nicaraguan villages undergoing technological transition. At the time of the research electricity was being put into the villages, allowing TV viewing. The researchers found that TV exposure does seem to drive both men and women to find slimmer female bodies more attractive.

Duffy opens up about horrifying ordeal

The Welsh pop singer made a brave statement on Instagram, explaining she’d retreated from the public eye because she’d been drugged, held captive and raped by an unidentified person. She has been praised by campaigners for drawing attention to the long-term impact of trauma.

Saudi Arabia orders arrest of female rapper

Her crime? She posted a music video called “Mecca Girl” on YouTube. The persecution of the rapper, who identifies herself as Asayel, is a reminder that Saudi Arabia may make a big song and dance about its supposed “modernization”, but there’s a very long way for it to go.

Teenage girl beats boys to win wrestling championship

Heaven Fitch became the first girl to win one of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s individual state wrestling championships. Fitch got into wrestling because of her brothers. “I would just be like, ‘Well, if they can do it, then I should be able to do it,’” she said.

Indonesian official thinks women can get pregnant from swimming

“In a swimming pool, there’s a certain kind of sperm that is very strong,” Sitti Hikmawatty, a senior child protection official, recently informed reporters. “If a person is aroused and ejaculates [in the pool] a pregnancy can happen even though there is no sexual penetration.” These nonsensical claims are a perfect example of why sex education is so important.

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