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“The Changing Role Of Money In Politics”: An Electoral Landscape In Which Financial Balance Has Tilted Dramatically To The Ultra-Rich

The 2012 presidential election was the first to be held in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Citizens United. Too many of us have forgotten that the results of that election were the opposite of what the megadonors had hoped for.

Can’t buy me gov.

That line neatly sums up the dismal showing on Election Day for the fundraisers, super-PAC strategists, and big-dollar donors of the Republican Party. Outside groups spent north of $1 billion this campaign season—bankrolled mostly by a small cadre of wealthy contributors—and yet they and their funders, especially on the Republican side, were left with little to show for it when the sun rose Wednesday morning. The GOP’s flagship super-PAC, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, had an abysmal 1 percent return on its $104 million investment. Megadonor Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, invested $57 million in 2012 races; only 42 percent of the candidates who received Adelson support won. Other big donors—say, Romney super-PAC backers—got nothing for their money.

Perhaps we forgot about all of that because the 2014 midterms turned a lot of it around (with a few exceptions, i.e., Eric Cantor).

The 100 biggest campaign donors gave $323 million in 2014 — almost as much as the $356 million given by the estimated 4.75 million people who gave $200 or less…

And the balance almost certainly would tip far in favor of the mega-donors were the analysis to include nonprofit groups that spent at least $219 million — and likely much more — but aren’t required to reveal their donors’ identities.

The numbers — gleaned from reports filed with the Federal Election Commission and the Internal Revenue Service — paint the most comprehensive picture to date of an electoral landscape in which the financial balance has tilted dramatically to the ultra-rich. They have taken advantage of a spate of recent federal court rulings, regulatory decisions and feeble or bumbling oversight to spend ever-greater sums in politics — sometimes raising questions about whether their bounty is being well spent…

Taken together, the trend lines reflect a new political reality in which a handful of superaffluent partisans can exert more sway over the campaign landscape than millions of donors of more average means.

With sweeping victories for the Republicans these megadonors financed, it appears as though that success overshadows their previous failure in 2012 to influence the election outcome.

But it does raise a couple of questions: Are megadonors more effective at influencing midterms than presidential elections? And if so, why? One possible answer to those questions comes from turning our gaze away from who gives the money in order to focus for a moment on how it is spent.

Over the last few decades, as the amount of money in politics has exploded, the vast majority of those dollars have been spent on media – particularly television advertisements. Recently we’ve been learning more about what audience those ads reach. Derek Thompson reported it this way: Half of Broadcast TV Viewers Are 54 and Older – Yikes. As Cecilia Kang pointed out, younger viewers are trending away from traditional television in favor of subscription-based channels and streaming options.

And so it should probably not come as a surprise that a midterm election focused on turning out older voters in local elections is more fertile ground for expensive television advertising.

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out in the 2016 presidential election. I would simply note that all of Karl Rove’s millions of dollars in TV advertising were no match in 2012 to a simple recording by a catering staff at Mitt Romney’s famous 47% event. In the meantime, the Democrat’s largest megadonor – George Soros – has “shifted his giving away from pure politics, preferring to fund causes devoted to building up progressive infrastructure.”

At least until the laws are changed, megadonors are legally able to use their millions of dollars in an attempt to influence elections. The question will increasingly be…what do they spend it on?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 3, 2015

January 4, 2015 Posted by | Campaign Financing, Elections, Mega-Donors | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Babyface Scores A Takedown”: Glenn “The Heel” Beck Does The Impossible

Remember the good old days when professional wrestlers “injured” in the ring would pretend to be injured in public just in case a fan saw them?

No? Ok. Well, take my word for it. The term of art is “kayfabe.” It’s the wrestling equivalent of a blue wall of silence. Omerta. That wall is very thin these days, and WWE proudly calls itself an entertainment company. No one is fooled, but the wrestlers try to keep in character most of the time, and the fans generally pretend to accept the real fakeness of wrestling. It is a confusing mental feat, but WWE makes a lot of money every year, so they’re doing something right.

In the past, when WWE wrestlers have formally broken character during a show, it’s because something bad happened; the real world intruded unexpectedly in a way that kayfabe couldn’t cover. The death of wrestler Owen Hart in the ring 14 years ago. Commentator Jerry the “King” Lawler suffers a heart attack on air a few months back.

Now, it’s something more… jovial. It’s Glenn Beck.

It started on Beck’s Mercury Radio Network program. WWE has a new character that Beck believes is “stupid.” The character is a Tea Party take-off who taunts the current WWE world champion, Alberto Del Rio, for allegedly being an illegal immigrant. Lest you find offense at this in any way, note that in this storyline, Del Rio is the good guy, and gets cheers from the fans, and the Tea Party wrestler, Zeb Colter, is the bad guy. (Colter’s bud is a veteran wrestler named Jack Swagger, another villain.)

Beck said this of the storyline:

So may I ask: Did George Soros buy the WWE? Is this a Cass Sunstein presentation? And maybe it’s just us. Maybe — you know what? Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe that’s the way WWE people view the TEA Party. And maybe they love to hate the TEA Party. But I have to tell you, I expect that from Hollywood, but I don’t expect — if I’m getting my entertainment from somebody that I think is on my side — and I’m sorry. I just don’t see a bunch of progressives going and buying their tickets to the WWE. Do you? I mean, and maybe there are. I tend to notice that the progressives are not as popular in the South unless they’ve moved from the North. So I’m just trying to figure out exactly who they’re trying to appeal here, who they’re appealing to.

He actually referred to George Soros and Cass Sunstein. Beck goes on to speculate that the WWE is alienating 80 percent of his audience, which he thinks “skews” conservative.

WWE responded by first inviting Beck to appear on their program. (It’s the biz!)

But then they released a video, where the wrestlers in question break character and bash Beck.

WWE’s reps concede that they’re promoting a storyline that makes anti-immigrant politics look bad because a significant and growing portion of their audience domestically and in Latin America is Hispanic.

And here is where Glenn Beck gets his sense of WWE wrong: wrestling might not seem “progressive” to him, but wrestling fans are young. They’re of the Obama generation. They like to be on the right side of history. Actually, if you look at wrestling storylines years back, you’ll see how the script matches or tries to catch up with the political zeitgeist.

Beck will get some PR out of this, but WWE has Wrestlemania on April 7.

Win!

 

By: Marc Ambinder, The Week, February 24, 2013

February 25, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Newt Gingrich: Romney Is The “George Soros-Approved” Candidate

While Romney spent his victory speech in Nevada last night doubling down on his ”

Obama is bad for the economy” message, Gingrich opted for a more low-key press conference where he dispelled any rumors of an imminent withdrawal and vowed: “We will go to Tampa.” The rest of his remarks, however, made it clear who his real opponent is, not Obama but Obamney. Not only has his campaign resurrected “Obamneycare” (which has got to have Romney seeing red and Tim Pawlenty kicking himself), but last night he debuted another attack-label for Mitt “the Massachusetts moderate” Romney: he is now also the “George Soros-approved candidate,” a reference to the liberal financier loathed by the right.

Gingrich was talking about an interview in Davos where George Soros made the following remarks:

If it’s between Obama and Romney there isn’t all that much different, except for the crowd that they bring with them. Romney would have to take Gingrich or Santorum as a vice president and probably have some pretty extreme candidates on the Supreme Court. So that’s the downside.

Imagine the hysterical glee when Gingrich (or one of his staffers) heard that gem coming out of George Soros’ mouth. Now he can really go all out on the I’m-the-only-true-conservative-up-against-the-mean-old-Establishment-and-all-that-money, which is exactly what he did last night.

So we stopped and said, alright, the entire Establishment will be against us, the scale of Wall Street money starting with Goldman Sachs will be amazing, and the campaign will be based on things that aren’t true, then how do you define the campaign for the average American so they get to choose do they want two George Soros-approved candidates in the general election or would they like a conservative versus one George Soros-approved candidate.

Looks like Gingrich is settling in for the long fight after all. He made clear at the press conference that he plans to wrest as many delegates out of Romney’s balled-up fists as he can (with special attention, it seems, being paid to Ohio and Arizona). And along the way, you can be sure he’ll trot out the “George Soros-approved candidate” line at least another 4,000 times.

 

By: Andre Tartar, Daily Intel, February 5, 2012

February 5, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Conservatives: Drop The Charade On Israel

As a liberal American Jew, I get treated to the predictable mock-outrage from conservatives every time a Democrat says something about Israel. In this case, it was President Obama’s remarks on Israel in his speech today. Sure, there was the usual routine of conservatives ignoring the basic facts of the matter (saying Obama called for Israel to accept the unacceptable pre-1967 border, when he actually said that the border should be BASED on the pre-1967 line), but I can’t even get mad at that anymore.

What’s got me upset, and has made me upset for a while, is American conservatives acting as though they (and only they) are capable of speaking for Israel. Michelle Bachmann already called Obama’s words “a betrayal” and Mitt Romney said that Obama “threw Israel under the bus”. Who made these schmucks experts on Israeli policy? What gives them the right to treat our spiritual homeland like it’s something only they can understand?

They DON’T understand Israel. Israel, the Middle East, and the world at large won’t be served by a refusal to negotiate and a refusal to make mutual concessions. All that does is create more resentment, more frustration, more anger…that’s not what we need. In the past twenty years, all they’ve done is give Israel money and weapons. They haven’t made any genuine effort to bring about peace. If you’re going to criticize one approach to the peace process, you have to present an alternative. Otherwise, it just seems disingenuous.

I have a friend, a guy I’ve known almost since birth, who put off law school for a few years to join the Israeli military. This hard-line approach advocated by conservatives just puts him, his fellow soldiers, and civilians in increased danger. It doesn’t solve problems, just amplifies them, and people who truly cared about Israel would realize this. Instead of only paying lip service to Israel, why doesn’t Bachmann, Romney, and the rest of their ilk actually do something constructive?

It’s also very hard to take all the pro-Israel talk seriously when Glenn Beck spews forth nonsense about George Soros and the Holocaust, Palin calls herself the victim of a “blood libel”, Republicans in Texas oppose a Jewish speaker of the state House, Limbaugh equates “banker” with “Jew”, and so on. Given that Israel is a Jewish state, it’s hard to imagine how one can truly support it while harboring a less-than-welcome attitude toward Jews. And while I’m on the subject, stop with the whole idea of promoting “Judeo-Christian values”. It seems that the only Jewish values they like are the very specific values of one Jew from Nazareth…

I’m not sure why American conservatives insist upon playing this game because it’s not going to get Jews to vote for them (Jews have been pretty solidly Democratic since the early 1900s). But that’s besides the point. It doesn’t matter why they do it.

It’s fake.

It’s insulting.

And it needs to stop.

By: Pandaman, Daily Kos, May 19, 2011

May 20, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Democrats, Foreign Policy, GOP, Middle East, Politics, President Obama, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Kochs And Libertarian Hypersensitivity

I find the extreme sensitivity displayed by libertarians toward criticism of the Koch brothers is really strange. Here’s a typical example, from David Bernstein:

The ongoing twenty minutes of hate against the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers for being, well, billionaire libertarians is yet another nail in the already well-sealed coffin of “liberaltarianism”–the attempt of some libertarians to ally with the progressive left.

The underlying premise of liberaltarianism was that libertarians could emphasize their policy positions that appeal to liberals but not conservatives–drug legalization, hostility to war and military spending, support for civil liberties and for gay marriage–while liberals, chastened by the Bush years, would tone down their support for big government in other areas.

The Kochs would appear to be the perfect liberaltarians–they support gay marriage, drug legalization, opposed the Iraq War, want to substantially cut military spending, and gave $20 million to the ACLU to oppose the Patriot Act (compared to a relatively piddling $43,000 to Scott Walker’s election campaign).

The comparison to 1984 lends this complaint an especially melodramatic touch — the point of the two-minute hate was that it targeted powerless or fictitious villains. I’m pretty sure that Emmanuel Goldstein was not supposed to have been actually exerting enormous influence over the political system in Oceania.

And the notion that the Kochs are “perfect liberaltarians,” of course, completely misses the point of liberaltarianism, which was to emphasize social issues and foreign policy over economics, and to define economics as evidence based and less hostile to redistribution and the possibility of market failure. Koch-brand libertarianism is obviously the precise opposite of each of those characteristics.

And while I certainly can’t speak for the liberaltarians, I suspect liberal criticism of the Kochs is unlikely to send them back to Koch-funded right-aligned libertarian organizations, given that those organizations very recently purged the liberaltarians.

But leave all that aside. Why do libertarians find it so offensive that people would criticize the Kochs? They exert a great deal of influence over the political system. Nobody is challenging their right to do so, but the fact of their involvement makes them natural subjects for criticism. Conservatives (and libertarians) enjoy criticizing and ridiculing figures such as Al Gore, Dan Rather and Paul Krugman, who influence public opinion as well, and whose pecuniary interest in doing so is, at best, much less obvious than the Kochs’.

The hypersensitivity about this honestly baffles me. Some of it has to do with the discomfort libertarians, who enjoy their self-image as scrappy outsiders, feel an association with powerful moguls. Some of it may result from the fact that it’s unusual for a libertarian to assume such a high-profile role in American politics, and so libertarians may not blink at criticism of a George Soros or an Adolph Coors but suddenly find their hearts bleeding at the sight of libertarian moguls facing actual public scrutiny. In any case, the sheer self-pity on behalf of these extremely wealthy, powerful individuals is quite a spectacle.

By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, March 16, 2011

March 17, 2011 Posted by | Koch Brothers, Liberatarians, Politics, Public Opinion | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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