Super PACs and the 'spirit' of the Olympics

Opinion: Don't censor campaigns during the summer games

A self-appointed nanny group has asked NBC to ban Super PAC ads during the Olympic Games. Their argument? They claim such ads go "against the spirit and values of the Olympic Games." This is on top of the ad the Obama campaign is running during the opening ceremony and the Olympic Committee’s ban on use of their footage in political ads.

If you ask me, the Olympics long ago gave up the pretense of being limited to amateur athletes, so what is the “spirit” that's being protected from politics?

Take the International Olympic Committee’s $4 billion-plus fee from NBC for the latest broadcast rights, including nearly $1.2 billion for the London Games alone. Then note that tickets for the opening ceremonies in London can set spectators back more than $3,000 a seat.  That is more than a presidential campaign is allowed to charge. 

A multi-event package for this year's summer games is more expensive than a Super PAC fundraiser.

To recover most of its costs, NBC is selling ads. Leading sponsors include carmakers, fast food emporia, smart phone manufacturers, and purveyors of all manner of luxury goods.

I have nothing against fast food, fast cars, fast phones and flashy watches. But in the midst of the multi-billion dollar commercialized extravaganza of the modern Olympics, the “spirit” of the games is a poor excuse to censor discussion about a presidential election.

The efforts to ban political ads and footage are really nothing more than efforts to force those these groups disagree with to shut up. Surely, that's not in the spirit of the games.

David M. Mason, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, is senior vice president, compliance services at Aristotle International.

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