Dollarocracy

excerpt from “Dollarocracy” by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney, The Nation, 8/30/13:

 …The 2012 elections were the most expensive in the Republic’s history, with spending of roughly $10 billion. They did not cost $6 billion, as was broadly reported last November. That figure was based on a sound study of federal election spending, but it did not account for the massive infusion of cash into local and state contests, as well as judicial and referendum votes, by the same wealthy donors, corporations and interest groups that fund national campaigns. The full picture shows that the worst fears of good-government groups have already been realized.

§ The biggest fantasy promulgated by pundits after the 2012 election was that President Obama’s victory showed that grassroots activism can still beat big money. In fact, Obama and his supporters raised and spent roughly $1.1 billion, while Mitt Romney and his supporters raised and spent roughly $1.2 billion. Yes, Obama’s campaign collected more small individual contributions than Romney’s. But the Democrat’s campaign also collected more large contributions than did the Republican’s. Romney’s relatively slight money advantage came from the higher level of spending on his behalf by interests like the Super PACs. Bottom line: in 2012, big money beat big money.

§ Big money—especially big corporate money—gets what it pays for. It’s easy to blame the absolutist demands of the Tea Party movement (which itself benefits from special-interest funding) or right-wing talkers like Rush Limbaugh for gridlock in Washington. But the truth, as Sunlight Foundation senior fellow Lee Drutman notes, is that “big corporate money is often quite eager to see gridlock. Just ask Big Oil if it would like an active Congress on climate issues. Or ask hedge fund donors if they’d like an active Congress on the taxation of carried interest.” Even when the process moves, as on the healthcare debate in 2009–10, the result is a reform that steers federal dollars to insurance companies, not single-payer Medicare for All. It’s even worse when it comes to debates about education and austerity; with the frequent collaboration of media that buy into the most simplistic spin, politicians become indistinguishable as they promote cuts and privatization schemes that answer the demands of billionaire projects like those of the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council, Pete Peterson’s Fix the Debt campaign or the Betsy DeVos–chaired American Federation for Children.

§ The interests that pushed campaign spending to record levels in 2010 and 2012 are only getting started….

read the whole article at The Nation

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