Eventually, some “super-PAC” is going to operate under a false flag — pretending to speak for a party or candidate in order to undermine them. If I were a political consultant, I would find false-flag ads irresistible. And they may be perfectly legal.

It could work like this for the 2016 election: A group of Democrats raises some money — it wouldn’t have to be much — for their new super-PAC, “Keep the Court Constitutional.” They take out ads — wouldn’t have to be many, as the media amplifies outrageous positions for free — urging that no one replace Justice Scalia until a Republican is president again, be that a few months or many years.

The ad repeats arguments Republicans already express: The Obama administration is intent on altering SCOTUS’s ideological composition, and a President Hillary would be even worse. Better to leave the Court with only eight justices than accept a liberal or centrist, even if a conservative appointment takes until 2025. Actually, such a wait could paralyze the system, a process that has already begun.

False-flag ads would use the technique of Frank Capra’s seven World War II motivational films, “Why We Fight.” Capra’s best footage was lifted from Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 “Triumph of the Will” that showed ranting, screaming Nazi big shots, their faces contorted in fury, that, to an American audience, looked nutty and threatening. Capra made the Nazis’ film clips work against them. Using recent TV clips, a super-PAC could produce a “Trump of the Will.”

The Republicans would protest, but the super-PAC would respond that good Republicans demand another Scalia on the high bench. The Republicans would sue to make the PACsters stop implying they are Republicans, a difficult legal case. The PAC wouldn’t have to identify with any party. Or PAC officials could be lifelong Republicans who oppose Trump. Or they could be Democrats who registered as Republicans last week, making them legally as Republican as anybody. 

No one, not even the Republican National Committee, could sue them to stop calling themselves Republicans. Donald Trump, with long ties to Democrats, is running as a Republican, which many Republicans hate but can’t stop. Bernie Sanders, a lifelong democratic socialist and independent senator, is running as a Democrat, and the Democrats can’t stop him. So loose and decentralized are America’s parties that they do not even control their brand names.

A Democratic false-flag ad would exaggerate Republican themes only a little, just enough to persuade centrist or wavering voters that Goldwater has returned with his “extremism is no vice.” Too heavy would unmask your intent. The idea would be to make Republicans look a bit extreme, enough to nudge more undecideds to vote Democrat. And the Republicans could do the same. A super-PAC showcasing Bernie Sanders’ leftist sound bites could, on the surface, look Democratic but persuade undecideds that the Democrats have turned ultraliberal.

The temptation of false-flag messages is built into the legal status of super-PACs. By law, they are supposed to be strictly informative and educational and cannot coordinate their messages with a candidate’s campaign, although everybody knows that they do. Because they cannot directly support a candidate, they are scathingly negative against the opposing candidate, bringing negativity to new heights in U.S. elections.

The 2004 anti-Kerry “swiftboat” ad concealed its actual sponsors. TV time to show the ad had to be purchased only once; subsequent airings were free, thanks to the news media. The 2010 Citizens United decision held that super-PACs need not reveal their donors, making it easy to hide their funding, which, as far as anybody knows, could be from a Mexican drug cartel. Republicans celebrated Citizens as a great victory, but it is equally useful to Democrats and virtually begs for super-PACs to be misused. 

No law requires super-PACs to speak the truth or place quotes in context. There are no penalties for dishonesty, which is hard to distinguish from normal campaign accusations. The target candidate’s own words from open sources and video clips would offer little basis for lawsuits. Romney’s comment at a private event that “47 percent” of voters are non-taxpaying welfare dependents hurt him, but he could not suppress the clip; the bartender who took it owned it and gave it to a magazine.

We can hope that false-flag super-PACs would eventually lead to the overturn or modification of Citizens United in favor of transparency and accountability. Simply lifting limits on direct donations to candidates would make super-PACs superfluous. Big money would still influence elections, but at least we’d know where it’s coming from.

False-flag ads would resemble standard “opposition research” on other candidates’ pronouncements and TV clips that are then used against them openly but negatively. In contrast, false-flag ads are fake-positive ads designed to unease viewers. Heavy Republican super-PAC spending did not win them the 2012 presidential race. Super-PACs are seen increasingly as ineffective and are losing big donors. False-flag ads could hasten the demise of super-PACs. Good.