Swift Yachting DemocracyPosted: August 4, 2012
While Tea Bagging Republicans are trying to convince every one that elections are being stolen by imaginary illegal voters, a finger bowl full of billionaires are buying up air time via Super Pacs to up the negative ad volume to 11. Here are some shocking facts from MoJo.
The 2012 elections are on track to be the nastiest in recent memory. By the tail end of primary season, in May, 70 percent of all presidential campaign ads were negative, up from a mere 9 percent at the same point in 2008. The culprits for this spike in attack ads were super-PACs and shadowy nonprofits, which together dominate the growing universe of outside political groups poised to spend billions of dollars this election season.
Now a new report from the liberal think tank Demos and the nonpartisan US Public Interest Research Group has revealed how what has been called a “tsunami of slime” is funded by a tiny cadre of wealthy donors.
Just 1,082 donors—a group small enough to fit inside a single high school gymnasium—accounted for 94 percent of all individual donations to super-PACs from January 1, 2011 to June 30, 2012. Those 1,082 donors amount to just 0.00035 percent of the US population.
I’ll just pause a second here while you mull those last two sentences over …
So, Romney is looking more and more like the loser these days so you ask, what will all this money do when it’s basically betting on another Romney that can’t even deliver a bronze? Well, how about this thought from Digby?
Romney may very well lose and everyone will say this shows that they failed, despite all their money. But these PACs and 501cs are not just about the presidential race. They are spreading this money around from the top of the ticket all the way to local races and their themes and talking points are all coordinated. I doubt they ever really believed this election was a shoo-in (or even really wanted to rock the boat — it’s not as if they haven’t been doing very, very well under Obama.) But they are setting up a system for the future:
During sessions of the “Weaver Terrace Group,” representatives of the embryonic Crossroads organization gathered with counterparts from groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Tax Reform, and Americans for Prosperity, the funding vehicle affiliated with the billionaires David and Charles Koch. Crossroads served as referee, says CEO Law. “Conservative activists tend to act like six-year-olds on soccer teams,” he explains, “with everyone grouping around the ball and getting in each other’s way. Karl’s idea was that all of these organizations should share information, coordinate polling, reduce redundancy.”
Together with a follow-on ruling by the federal appeals court in Washington, Citizens United knocked several crucial holes in McCain-Feingold. Corporate and union money, for example, could now be used without restriction for “electioneering communications,” meaning radio and TV ads that mention a candidate’s name within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of a general election.
More important than the incremental increase in campaign-law porosity, though, was the passionately phrased celebration by Justice Anthony Kennedy of political spending in its manifold forms. Kennedy’s majority opinion declared that “the appearance of influence or access … will not cause the electorate to lose faith in our democracy.” Kennedy continued: “The fact that a corporation, or any other speaker, is willing to spend money to try to persuade voters presupposes that the people have the ultimate influence over elected officials.”
In Kennedy’s syllogism, democracy benefits from more speech. Political money is speech. Therefore democracy benefits from more political money.That’s so true. I certainly feel a new found faith in democracy knowing that this handful of billionaires are finally allowed to have the same influence over our government that I do.
Who is the 300 pound gorilla in this pen? Head back to the MoJo article for this tidbit.
The dominant presence among super-PAC donors is Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, who’ve given $36.3 million so far. That’s chump change for the Adelsons—in fact, $36.3 million is a mere 0.15 percent of their total wealth. It would take 321,000 American families giving up 0.15 percent of their wealth to match the Adelsons’ super-PAC giving.
Representative John Dingell (D-MI), the longest-sitting member of Congress, introduced a bill Thursday designed to force the Supreme Court to reconsider its Citizens United decision. Along with at least ten co-sponsors, Dingell’s Restoring Confidence in Our Democracy Act, would ban corporations and unions from making independent political expenditures. It would also subject Super PACs to the same contribution limits that exist with other PACs. Dingell intends the bill to provide “the factual record which details the negative effects of increased spending in our elections.” That factual record, he hopes, will get the Court to reverse itself, and restore Congress’ power to limit a form of spending that Dingell (rightly) believes has eroded even further America’s “confidence” in “our democracy.”
Dingell’s bill, however, is effectively two bills– one that would require the Court to reverse itself, if indeed the new law were upheld, and the other that would not require the Court to reverse itself but would instead give the Court a chance to address a kind of corruption that so far the Supreme Court has ignored. It is unlikely (in the extreme) that the Court is going to reverse itself. But if framed properly, Dingell’s bill could well map a way for Congress to staunch the corrupting influence of Super PAC spending without forcing the Court to eat its Citizens United words.
Let’s hope John and Bernie can get this thing on to the agenda of their respective bodies. Let’s also just say that I’m not holding my breath until it happens.