Sunday, November 07, 2010

Can Republicans now buy every election?

Ladies and gentlemen, democracy is for sale. And the corporations buying our democracy are only interested in one thing: electing Republicans who want to eliminate taxes and regulations on corporations and Wall Street.

In January of 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

As the New York Times said the day after the decision, the ruling, "overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

The 2002 law, usually called McCain-Feingold, banned the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations or labor unions from their general funds in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general elections."

To recap, this disastrous decision by the Court means that corporations and other groups can not only spend an unlimited amount of money on electioneering, but also that they don't have to reveal the source of their funding. Suppose that a Saudi Arabian prince wants to give millions to the US Chamber of Commerce to run attack ads on a Congressman from New York. He's now perfectly free to do so. And guess what? The Chamber of Commerce doesn't have to tell anyone where they got the money to run the ads.

I recommend this article from USA Today for text and graphics that demonstrate the huge boost that Republicans got in 2010 from "outside groups" thanks the the Citizens United decision.

"Conservative spending has topped $187 million this year, up from $19.6 million in 2006, the last midterm election,"

"In the 48 House contests in which outside groups spent a combined $1 million or more, Republicans won two-thirds, a USA TODAY analysis of election results and campaign reports shows. In one Upstate New York district, conservative groups such as American Crossroads, the Tea Party Express and the 60 Plus Association bought $2.8 million in negative ads attacking freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Murphy on health care, helping Republican Christopher Gibson win 55% of the vote.

Here's another way to look at this year's spending by outside groups, as detailed in the same article. The top four groups, led by the US Chamber of Commerce and groups formed by Karl Rove and Wall Street hedge fund moguls spent a total of $97 million, virtually all of which went to Republicans. The Service Employees International Union, which gives money principally to Democrats, was a distant 5th with $15 million spent.

Last year, I wrote about how Democrats are gradually gaining an inherent advantage in electoral politics due to the country's changing population demographics. To summarize those observations, the Republican party derives nearly all of its support from suburban college-educated whites and rural whites with less than a college education. And because those two groups are making up a smaller and smaller percentage of American voters, it's becoming harder and harder for Republicans to win elections. I mention this because the Citizens United verdict may be just what the doctor ordered for Republicans to combat the Democrats' increasing demographic advantage. Most elections are won by the side who raises and spends the most money. So if corporations are going to start giving Republicans a blank check every year, then Republicans are going to win.

The conservative corporate-backed groups who bought so many elections this year like to claim that they are striking, "a decisive blow for freedom."

But isn't it a funny sort of "freedom?" We're already familiar with the "freedom" of corporations to rely on Americans as their principal consumer market, while refusing to give Americans good jobs. As I noted in September, corporate profits in America are currently near their all time high, even as unemployment continues to hover near 10%. Corporations also insist on the "freedom" to take all the advantages that America has to offer while giving nothing in return. Exxon-Mobile, for example, routinely makes about $1 billion dollars in profit per week and pays zero income taxes in this country, due to its off-shore incorporations. Then of course there's the insistence on "freedom" from government regulation, even as episodes like the sub-prime credit crisis continue to prove that deregulation leads to disaster.

Now cap all of those "freedoms" with the "freedom" to buy elections, and to tell no one where the money came from. Isn't it great to be free?


Mo said...

I agree with most of what you say but I do have a bit more confidence in the citizens of America. There is a rube element who will fall for anything but I suspect that most Americans can see through the ads. I think that was proven in the last election when a number of candidates that were outspent won primaries and election to office.

I'm an average guy and don't take direction from the union hall or the corporation. I weigh my options and base my vote on who I believe will best govern. I don't limit myself to just D's and R's either.

I suspect the American spirit will prevail though it may hit some low points along the way. The idea (freedom and justice) is just too good to overcome.

M. Joseph Goodfriend said...

Thank you, Mo. I certainly hope you're right.

cfand8 said...

Democrats outspent Republicans in this year's election and the labor union for government employess outspent the Chamber of Commerce. I assure you that money wasn't going to Republicans. Democrats lost because this is a center right country and Obama, Pelosi, and Reid tried to take it way left. Keep blaming the spending though. Just proves the denial that Liberals are going through right now.

M. Joseph Goodfriend said...

Hi cfand8,

Democrats outspent Republicans in this year's election and the labor union for government employess outspent the Chamber of Commerce.

Incorrect. As the material I linked noted, conservative groups outspent progressive groups by a more than 2-to-1 ratio, and the Chamber spent 32.9 million compared to the SEIU's 15.7 million. SEIU, unlike the Chamber, discloses the source of its funds.

Democrats lost because this is a center right country and Obama, Pelosi, and Reid tried to take it way left.

On the contrary, that's exactly what did NOT happen. Democrats expected Obama and Congress to fight for a serious infrastructure-building stimulus with a WPA-style jobs program, a public option on health care, shutting down Gitmo, secret renditions, and domestic spying, ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, starting immigration reform and a bill to cap pollutants. The White House and Congress didn't deliver on any of these things, so Democrats stayed home. Polls showed in race after race, Democrats had the lead among registered voters, but not among likely voters. And it's the blue dog Democrats who sided with Republicans who bore the brunt of this year's incumbent losses. And America is not a "center-right" nation. On every major issue, the public is closer to the progressive position than they are the conservative one.