GOP’s The Walking Red

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Former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s 2016 presidential campaign, drifting around near the bottom of a field of 17 and struggling to escape the shadow of a badly bungled 2012 effort, is reportedly out of money and has puts its entire staff on unpaid “volunteer” status, nationwide.

Watch as a super PAC keeps this zombie walking…

The Perry campaign reported raising $1.14 million in the second quarter of this year and on July 15 reported having $883,913 on hand.

But a group of Opportunity and Freedom super PACs promoting Perry’s candidacy was in far healthier state financially, having raised nearly $17 million by the end of June.

Austin Barbour, senior adviser to the super PAC, said the group would step up “to aggressively support the governor in a number of different ways.”

 
Never before in modern American political history has it been easier for a completely dead and broke major party presidential campaign to keep going for no discernible reason and with virtually no chance.

Super PACs are like cult of personality worship machines for the excessively wealthy cult faithful.

I guess they’re creating a lot more consulting and media buying jobs though, maybe? There’s that trickle-down we’ve all been promised for so long… trickling all the way from the 0.1% to the 1% and back to the media companies owned by the 0.1%. That’s what passes for social mobility these days: Money moving around the hands of those within sub-tiers the top tier.

August 5, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 137

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.

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Topics: Presidential megadonors; Medicare turns 50; Nigeria asks US to close banking loopholes. People: Bill, Kelley. Produced: August 2nd, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– Presidential megadonors: Like ridiculously expensive racetrack betting and equally pointless.
– Medicare just turned 50: Are Democrats pushing Big Ideas in public policy these days?
– Nigeria’s new president argues closing corruption loopholes in the West is more helpful than loans.

Episode 137 (51 min):
AFD 137

Related Links

NYT: Million-Dollar Donors in the 2016 Presidential Race
The Hill: President: ObamaCare finishes job started by Medicare, Medicaid
NASI: Medicare’s Efforts to Reduce Disparities
AFD: Buhari: Anti-corruption help better than foreign aid, for Nigeria

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Waiting for a “Disruptor” candidate

The ill effects of big money’s domination of our political system are indeed multitudinous and heavy. But I’m not as pessimistic as you might think about the possibilities of reversing that trend.

True, there are candidates who simply don’t care about the corrupting and corrosive influence of the sea of campaign cash on American politics and governance. But many of the candidates who do care (or would at least prefer not to have to do so much fundraising) have also made themselves excessively dependent on “consultants” and “strategists.” These operatives literally get compensated based on the number and cost of television ads that run — and quite often nothing else. In other words, the more ads that run and the more they cost, the more the consultants and strategists get paid (to tell the candidate to run more ads or lose the race).

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This is actually one reason why the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign could be genuinely fascinating. He’s reportedly planning to rely far less heavily on TV advertising and use the money for things that are probably genuinely more productive for delivering votes. This also very likely means he can run a solid campaign with vastly less money. If he can win some states and put up a decent showing, it might encourage other Democratic candidates in future (at various levels of government) to ditch the failed media-consultant model. Already there have been some low-profile victories in recent non-presidential races for Dems who emphasized cheap ground game over costly TV ad wars.

There’s a model from outside politics that demonstrates the potential of eschewing the costly TV-oriented campaign model in favor of something else. Successful internet apps and platforms generally seem to rise initially through favorable, viral word-of-mouth from early users. Not from expensive ad buys. People try the thing, they like it, and they tell everyone else to get on board. Yes there’s also less likely to be barrages of attack ads from a rival company against the new product, but the main factor in boosting consumer adoption is the positive and enthusiastic word-of-mouth reviews. (Negative ads in politics, by the way, tend to depress turnout rather than persuading someone to switch from one candidate to another.)

Of course, the media networks that cash in big on these advertisement purchases won’t be happy if such a transformation occurs. But legacy media has less total control than they once did. I believe it’s easier than ever for a candidate to break through by other means and get their message out with the help of enthusiastic voters who like them.

So: which presidential candidate is going to be the first to try being a “disruptor” and ditch the media-consultant/ad-buy model? Which candidate will win on the strength of favorable word-of-mouth from voters meeting him/her in person, without omnipresent TV ad exposure?

The toxicity of expensive TV campaigns and the consultants who push them is a relatively small, fixable problem to tackle that also carries fairly large ramifications for our political system.

February 25, 2015 – Arsenal For Democracy 117

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Topics: Right-wing soccer hooliganism, Egypt’s intervention in Libya, Koch Brothers contributions in 2016. People: Bill, Nate, Sasha. Produced: February 23rd, 2015.

Discussion Points:

– What is the relationship between right-wing politics and racist/nationalist soccer hooliganism in Europe?
– What does Egypt’s intervention mean for the war in Libya?
– What impact will the Koch Brothers’ $889 million pledge have on the 2016 elections and US democracy?

Episode 117 (54 min)
AFD 117

Related links
Segment 1

The Guardian: Chelsea fans who shouted racist chants at London station sought by police
The Guardian: Ex-policeman caught up in Chelsea fans’ Paris Métro incident denies he is racist
The Economist: UKIP’s long game: Beyond the beachheads

Segment 2

AFD: Egypt Air Force strikes ISIS of Libya at Derna
Informed Comment: Egypt: Sisi’s struggle with the Muslim Brotherhood and his Strikes on ISIL/ Daesh in Libya

Segment 3

AFD, by Sasha: Let’s talk money
NYT: Koch Brothers’ Budget of $889 Million for 2016 Is on Par With Both Parties’ Spending

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Let’s talk money

As kids, we’re told money can’t buy happiness — but our parents never said anything about presidential elections. The Koch brothers announced last month their intentions to spend $889 million on the 2016 presidential election.

$889 million. Let’s get some perspective on that number. $889 million is twice as much as Mitt Romney spent in the 2012 election. $889 million is more than George Bush and John Kerry spent combined in the 2004 election. Dad joke of the year: “What can you buy with 889 million dollars? A President!”

All joking aside, the Koch brothers are a simple reminder of the dangers of money in politics. Their network is made up of a plethora of advocacy groups and nonprofits; a system that allows their donors to stay mostly anonymous. Which means we don’t know where the money is coming from (although a safe bet is that it’s the 1%).

The announcement was made at a donor meeting for Freedom Partners, a business lobby that serves as the head of the snake. Keep in mind that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) — all likely candidates for the Republican nomination in 2016 — were all in attendance and available for mingling with the wealthy Americans pulling the strings of politics. The conservative donors also stuck around for strategy sessions and issue seminars, according to The New York Times.

The strategy sessions must be paying off though, as the Koch brothers have been using their wealth to influence more than just national elections. They have played a role in state elections as well.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is a conservative advocacy group, and a part of the Koch network, that has more than 2,000 state legislators as members. ALEC has been most useful in their fight against the Obama administration’s energy and environmental regulations.

Does this sound familiar? In December I wrote about Republicans not only taking over the Senate, but also dominating state legislatures across the country, as well as about the combined efforts of Republican State Attorneys General to overturn environmental regulations. The Koch brothers, and their money, have seeped into every crevice of American policy and politics.

When it comes to state campaign finance, it’s mostly uncharted waters. The rules vary a lot more already. But on the national stage there has been a lot more influence from a select few in recent years, mostly due to the significant new changes in campaign finance law.

Without delving too deeply into the Citizens United v. FEC, the court majority’s main argument was restricting political spending was restricting free speech, even of associations of individuals (i.e. corporations). The court went even further in 2014 with the ruling of McCutcheon v. FEC, which places no cumulative limit on individual contributions to candidates. The trend continued in Congress, when in December 2014 they passed the “CRomnibus” (continuing resolution omnibus spending bill), which rolled back more campaign finance rules, significantly lifting the caps on donations to campaign committees. These decisions and new laws have had many different impacts, but the one to focus on here is that the billionaire Koch brothers get a louder and more influential voice in politics because their pockets are deeper than most Americans.

I say most Americans, because there are other wealthy people (besides the Koch brothers) who have increased their donations to political campaigns since the Citizens United decision. As the chart below illustrates, spending that once hovered under $10 million has skyrocketed in the past 7 years. Still, conservative donors are, by volume of donations, effectively the only ones throwing money at candidates. True, names like Michael Bloomberg and George Soros show up on the invite list to big Democratic donor events, but even their combined contributions for 2014 were less than $30 million. That’s equal to 3% of my new favorite number: $889 million. And the rest of Americans are barely noticeable.

The dramatic growth of independent expenditures in presidential elections following the Citizens United decision. (Center for Responsive Politics via Reclaim Democracy)

The dramatic growth of independent expenditures in presidential elections following the Citizens United decision. (Credit: Center for Responsive Politics via Reclaim Democracy)

The pressure is on for Democrats and anticipated frontrunner candidate Hillary Clinton. While Barack Obama spent just under $800 million in the 2012 election, he managed to raise more than any other presidential candidate in history. So despite claims that liberals run most of Hollywood and the news media, it’s clear that they don’t come anywhere close to scrambling up nearly a billion dollars to elect a president. The Koch brothers are essentially doubling the Republican war chest with the extra $889 million, while the Democrats will be lucky to raise half of that combined total.

Even so, the reason $889 million is so outrageous is not because there is no way Democrats can compete. It’s because, for working and voting Americans, I think it highlights the question: Who is really electing our President?

 
Correction: An earlier version of this article included a numerical error in contributions to Democratic candidates due to an editing mistake. Tom Steyer donated $74 million to Democratic candidates in the 2014 cycle. He should not have been included in the $30 million / 3% figure in the original version. Steyer’s 2014 contributions amount to about 8% of $889 million.

April 7, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 79

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Description: Nate and Bill discuss Brendan Eich’s firing over Prop 8 donations and campaign finance.

Part 1 – Mozilla Firing:
Part 1 – Mozilla Firing – AFD 79
Part 2 – McCutcheon v. FEC:
Part 2 – McCutcheon v. FEC – AFD 79

(No third segment this week due to WVUD’s Radiothon.)

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

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Op-Ed: The Problem With Billionaires

My latest op-ed from The Globalist:

In the 1980s, the supply-siders became ascendant in Washington D.C., preaching voodoo economics as “the way, the truth and the life.” Their central claim was that rich people create jobs, while high taxes on the rich leave them with less money to create jobs. Therefore tax cuts for the rich equal job growth.

In reality, this hasn’t borne out. Neither the macroeconomic data nor academic studies have shown much evidence of a direct correlation between rich people having more money and using it to create jobs.

Instead, they mostly just use it to speculate, because it’s essentially extra wealth well above and beyond any other spending or genuine investments they could possibly conceive of.

Read the full op-ed here.