4.19: PACs, Super PACs, and Unions in the Media

Special Interest Groups, Political Action Committees (PACs), and Labor Unions are constantly engaging in political advocacy through advertising. They devote enormous amounts of time and resources to persuading voters and citizens to support their positions on issues and candidates. 

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In the past, these organizations relied mainly on newspapers, direct mail, and television advertising to influence voters and citizens.

However, when running for President in 2008, Barack Obama's campaign changed the political advertising landscape by using social media posts and online ads to reach voters. Since then, the amount of money spent on online ads has gone from the millions to the billions and continues to grow with every election cycle on Facebook and Google and other online platforms. Many of these ads are carefully designed to microtarget specific groups with specific messages.

Paradoxically, as the American Bar Association has pointed out, “lying in political ads is also perfectly legal” because what is said is considered political speech and that is protected under the First Amendment (Political Advertising on Social Media, June 26, 2020). As a consequence, misinformation and disinformation keeps reappearing during and after elections, including in 2021 with the "Big Lie" that the 2020 Election was stolen from the former President.

In these activities, you will examine the relationship between PACs and labor unions and the media and consider how these organizations' use of and inclusion in the media influences voters and shapes democracy.

Activity 1: Evaluate Political Action Committee (PAC) Advertisements

Activity 2: Investigate the Portrayal of Unions in the News 

Additional Resources

Connecting to the eBook

Building Democracy for All: Special Interest Groups, Political Action Committees (PACs and Super PACs), and Labor Unions

Connecting to the Standards