The PAC Problem

The first round of the School of Business Debate occurred on Sept. 30 in van den Berg Hall.  Students majoring in business or taking related classes were required, as part of a course curriculum, to attend and participate in selected business debates. The topic covered whether large businesses and corporations should advocate for a political campaign with private funding.

Professionally dressed and set to take on socioeconomic arguments, both sides of team 1 and team 2 were eager to report their opinions in front of three local acclaimed businesspeople who would judge their performances.

Team 2, who were against large corporate political funding, suggested there are “loopholes” to contributing to large political parties, in which large corporations can provide non-specific candidates large sums of money without recognition, thus contributing “soft money.”

“A tiny number of wealthy individuals have the power to sway political campaigns,” said a student from the opposing team.

Team 1 defended their positive stance on political funding, stating “corporations should not be limited by the success of their business,” and accordingly, “the First Amendment was made to give them power; why should we ban them to lend money to candidates in a campaign?”

Though determinations of winners were not made after the first debate for teams 1 and 2, judges did offer candid advice, acknowledgement of good public speaking points and thanks for presenting.

Ed Burke, a local businessman at Wells Fargo, was impressed with the emotion that was shown.

“Points were on par; eye contact was either there or it wasn’t, but as you get more comfortable it will come,” he said.

Similarly, Gene Moncrief, an external consultant to business corporations, suggested that the students have outlines and notes in front of them.

“Have notes to keep you on track but do not read,” Moncrief said. “The more emotion you can give with your face and your hands, the more convincing you will be.”

About 15 minutes after the end of the first competitor’s debate, another small crowd of polished college students entered the room and waited their turn to support their developed arguments.

After introducing the teams and general guidelines, team 4, the opposing side, countered team 3’s argument for campaign funding: “It is not appropriate to use Political Action Committees (PAC); campaign donations are not a freedom of speech. Should some people have more freedom of speech than others, since the distribution of wealth is not equal in America?”

The affirmative side gave a heated response: “Money is a way corporations can have a voice. There are regulations as to contributing PACs and Super PACs. Along with PACs, there are involvements with charities that go along with corporate funding.” They also added that “[donors] don’t get to donate directly to political sides” and the “candidate doesn’t have direct access to them, but it helps their campaign.”

Closing the debate, team 4 confidently relayed that “state elections have a lot less money to use, so corporations have a lot of say since there is not much funding from the state. So a corporation could flood a county or state election pool with their funding.”

Burke shared his thoughts on potential improvements.

“Knowing your subject and what you want to say makes everyone at ease; you all got outside of your comfort zone, and build upon this,” he said.

Chris Napolitano, professor of principles in management offered advice and praise.

“Some were strong with eye contact and showing emotion. One of the easiest things to talk about among friends and family is what you are comfortable with,” he said, suggesting to research their argument well for professional usage.

Moncrief agreed with previous comments.

“Once you are comfortable, you can start convincing,” he said.