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Friday, September 24, 2010

The Myth Of Buying Elections

Senate Democrats failed to get the 60 votes need to bypass a filibuster on Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act aka The Disclose Act, the bill being rejected with a vote of 59 to 39.

Wapo explains:

The legislation, which passed the House in a different form earlier this year, was drafted as a response to the 5 to 4 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The court found that corporations had the same rights as individuals to engage in political speech and could therefore spend as much as they wanted for or against specific candidates.

Obama pointedly criticized the ruling during his State of the Union address, prompting an unusual public objection weeks later by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The president and other White House aides have continued to focus on the decision as opening the door to abuses by corporations and had made passage of the Disclose Act a top legislative priority.

In his weekly radio address last Saturday, for example, Obama blasted Republicans for opposing the bill. "A partisan minority in Congress is hoping their defense of these special interests and the status quo will be rewarded with a flood of negative ads against their opponents," Obama said. "It's a power grab, pure and simple."

Barack Obama and Democrats did not like the court ruling, therefore they wanted to pass a bill that would negate the ruling.

From the Citizen United ruling:

"When government seeks to use its full power, including the criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it uses censorship to control thought," the court said in a decision written by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. "This is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think for ourselves."

Does money "buy" elections?

Let's look at recent primaries and elections and see.

In the Delaware GOP primary Senate race, Rep. Mike Castle raised $3,243,202, spent $1,489,033 and had $2,616,912 cash on hand.

PAC contributions $1,248,341 (38%)
Individual contributions $1,936,809 (60%)
Candidate self-financing $4,800 (0%)
Other $53,252 (2%)

Christine O'Donnell raised $376,093, spent $346,145, and had $20,374 cash on hand.

PAC contributions $8,250 (2%)
Individual contributions $351,090 (93%)
Candidate self-financing $3,026 (1%)
Other $13,727 (4%)

The Tea Party sponsored and produced ads to help Christine O'Donnell and Mike Castle had the National Republican Senatorial Committee behind him.

Yet, O'Donnell won the primary.

The same happened in Alaska, outside groups did not "buy" the elections, they leveled the playing field to allow lesser known candidates a chance to remove left of center moderates and offer voters a choice.

Those were GOP primaries, used as examples simply because they were the most recent in the news... what about general elections or the upcoming midterms where it is a Democrat vs a Republican?

TPM reports:

The Democratic National Committee out-raised its GOP counterpart, the Republican National Committee, by approximately $3 million in the month of August. The DNC raised $10.9 million last month, whereas Republicans raised $7.9 million. This gives the DNC around $13.4 million in cash on hand; the RNC has about $4.7 million cash on hand. It should be noted, however, that the DNC has $8.4 million in debt, versus the RNC's debt of $1.2 million.

As we reported yesterday, last month the DCCC out-raised the NRCC on the House side of the campaign, and the DSCC outdid the NRSC in fundraising for Senate races.

Using Nevada as an example to make the point of what I mean when I say leveling the playing field.

Nevada, Democratic incumbent Harry Reid, according to has raised $19,198,455 and Republican challenger Sharron Angle has raised $3,548,644 (last updated on 09/24/2010)

Sharron Angle has taken a one point lead over Harry Reid when outside groups helped level the playing field with money spent, but still not totaling the overall expenditures on behalf of Harry Reid.

Fred Barnes at WSJ explains this better than I can:

Republican strategists Ed Gillespie and Karl Rove were appalled last winter as they searched out well-funded conservative groups that were preparing to support GOP congressional candidates in the 2010 midterm. They sensed there were too few of them and that a once-in-a-generation opportunity might be lost. Short of money and grass-roots activism, GOP candidates would be easy prey for lavishly funded Democratic opponents—not to mention liberal groups committed to spending hundreds of millions on attack ads.

This scenario has been averted. Conservatives and Republicans have organized an army of independent groups in a shrewd, collaborative and well-financed effort. While old standbys—the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce—are involved, they now have reinforcements. They've come close to matching overall spending by Democratic groups, thus leveling the campaign playing field and enhancing Republican chances of capturing the House, Senate, and more governorships and state legislatures in 2010.

The influence of the new coalition is already being felt. American Crossroads, a brainchild of Messrs. Gillespie and Rove, has poured $3 million into the Nevada Senate race, keeping the underfunded Republican candidate, Sharron Angle, from falling behind Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the polls. (She led 46% to 45% in a Fox News poll last week.) In Ohio, when Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman was off the air in late July, American Crossroads stepped in with a wave of TV ads on his behalf. In August, the Chamber of Commerce took over with pro-Portman ads. A Quinnipiac poll last week pegged his lead over Democrat Lee Fisher at 55% to 35%.

Long-established conservative groups such as the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List are engaged in this midterm, but a more recent newcomer, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), is also playing a major role, perhaps a decisive one. It has targeted 60 Democratic incumbents and expects to spend $35 million to $45 million to defeat them.

"We're not some Washington, D.C. group," says AFP President Tim Phillips. With bus tours, rallies, TV spots, phone calls, door-to-door contacts and recruitment of volunteers, this group is building what he calls "an honest to goodness ground game" manned by thousands of conservative activists.

The Democratic lead in fund-raising is itself a relatively recent phenomenon. Republicans spent more in 2006, but Democrats surged ahead in 2008, spending $956 million to the Republicans' $792 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. This includes spending by groups independent of the party or the candidate.

Democrats were simply quicker than Republicans to skirt, quite legally, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that took effect in 2003. That legislation barred high-dollar (or "soft money") donations to political parties. It prompted wealthy liberals, for example, to fund independent expenditures through groups such as Rich conservatives were less active until this year.

Campaign finance watchdogs and the media were never terribly concerned when liberal groups were drubbing conservatives in independent expenditures. Now they profess shock that millions are being spent to boost Republican candidates and the names of wealthy donors aren't disclosed.

In any event, four of the top five independent groups—the AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union, Services Employees Local 1999, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee—support Democratic campaigns. The lone conservative group in the top five is the Susan B. Anthony List. Based on data released by the Federal Election Commission, however, the overall gap has narrowed: As of Sept. 18, money spent on behalf of Democratic candidates from all reported sources totaled $389,023,152, only slightly more than the $377,689,336 for Republicans.

Emphasis mine.

So, is assuring that the same amount spent on campaigns between opposing candidates "buying" an election?

In November when the expected tidal wave hits Democrats it will be because the American people choose one or the other, the person spending the most money won't be the deciding factor, the popularity of a candidate or unpopularity of a candidate in the eyes of those voting will decide.

Democrats do not want a level playing field and have been determined to make an end run around the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission by trying to control what has been determined to be free speech.

They failed, as they should have. More information, whether it be positive ads or negative, is always preferable to less and voters, are smart enough to get on the computer and do searches to verify anything they want to make an informed decision.

Elections are not bought, they are won or they are lost by the individual candidates.

If corporation leaders want to spend their profits, they have just as much right to do so without being intimidated as unions and other groups... it is free speech and the court was right to judge it as such.

Side note- For the record, the more money spent by both parties and all Independent groups on either side, should be welcome... after all, doesn't spending and spending big help the economy?

Just a thought.