Saturday, April 16, 2016

Remember what I said about the political establishment?

A couple of months ago I postulated that the political establishment in the USA equated not so much to left- or right-wing inclinations or ideologies, but to riches.  The real political 'establishment' in America is wealth.

The Washington Post has just provided evidence to confirm my hypothesis.

A small core of super-rich individuals is responsible for the record sums cascading into the coffers of super PACs for the 2016 elections, a dynamic that harks back to the financing of presidential campaigns in the Gilded Age.

Close to half of the money — 41 percent — raised by the groups by the end of February came from just 50 mega-donors and their relatives, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal campaign finance reports ... In all, donors this cycle have given more than $607 million to 2,300 super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. That means super PAC money is on track to surpass the $828 million that the Center for Responsive Politics found was raised by such groups for the 2012 elections.

The staggering amounts reflect how super PACs are fundraising powerhouses just six years after they came on the scene. The concentration of fundraising power carries echoes of the end of the 19th century, when wealthy interests spent millions helping put former Ohio governor William McKinley in the White House.

. . .

To put that in perspective: This tiny cohort of mega-donors supplied more money than the combined contributions of nearly 1 million supporters of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton, whose campaign raised $161 million in the same time period. Unlike super PACs, candidates cannot accept corporate money, and individual contributions to them are limited to $2,700 per election.

Michael Malbin, executive director of the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute, said the last time political wealth was so concentrated was in 1896, when corporations and banking moguls helped McKinley, the Republican candidate, outspend Democratic rival William Jennings Bryan.

. . .

Populist anger over how presidential races were financed led to a 1907 ban on corporations donating to federal campaigns. Forty years later, Congress prohibited unions and corporations from making independent expenditures in federal races.

The picture dramatically changed in 2010, when the Supreme Court said in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporations and unions could spend unlimited sums on politics as long as they did it independently of campaigns and parties. The decision paved the way for super PACs, which are now a norm in federal races.

There's more at the link.

If anyone believes that these super-rich individuals are pouring their money into politics out of sheer altruism, expecting nothing in return . . . well, there's this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC that I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.



Tal Hartsfeld said...

Total power-and-control junkies. Bonafide despots.
Just WHO, exactly, are we voting for anyway? And why?

SiGraybeard said...

It's not that I think they're being altruistic; of course they expect to get something for their expense. It's just how do you reign them in without infringing on their constitutional rights?

I believe those folks are well within their rights to contribute to whomever they want to. They're as within their rights to donate as you are to protest them!!

The answer isn't to attack the donors, it's to break the systems that encourage it. You know what they say, "when buying a congressman or senator becomes the best investment, the first things to be bought and sold will be congressmen and senators."

JohninMd.(HELP?!??) said...

Granted, lots of money is spent on the political process. But how many votes does it buy them? I mean, I don't pick the candidate I vote for based on how much money is spent on them, do you? No amount of cash was gonna get me to support Jeb Bush, for example. Hillary and Burnie to me represent pure evil, she being the head of a criminal enterprise guilty of various crimes, he being the ernest promoter of a system that leads to human enslavement and misery.
So, I guess the question is who, and how all that money is influencing votes? Not saying your wrong, but I don't see it. Show me, please?

freddie_mac said...

The most important & valuable thing to come from this election season has been the continuing exposure of the political establishment. Whether we're talking about how state parties control the distribution of delegates or how federal parties/elders are actively impeding candidates they don't like ... more and more people are paying attention, and they don't like what they see. Earlier this week, I found myself explaining the Electoral College and how we don't actually vote for the president.

Michael Brazier said...

The Post left out of its article the key details: which candidates the 50 mega-donors were backing with their money. If we knew that we could judge for ourselves just how much actual influence the donors' contributions is really buying, and hence how much concern is really warranted. Without that, all we learn is the Post's opinion that the mega-donors have too much influence for its taste - and a grudging admission that none of the viable candidates in 2016 seem to have needed the mega-donors so far.

Because I follow GOP political news, I know that Jeb Bush had a truly enormous stack of money committed to his campaign at the start of the primary season ... and it didn't do him a lick of good. He was crushed in every caucus and primary he entered. He got most of that money from mega-donors, and all of it was wasted. That's a clear demonstration that "wealth" has lost much of its power to control elections in recent years, if it ever had such power.

And to the best of my knowledge, it did not. The true seat of the American political establishment since WWII has been the editorial board of the New York Times. Their power came not from wealth (no newspaper has ever controlled great wealth) but the deference of nearly all journalists to their judgement of what topics were worthy of the public's attention, and what policies could be brought forward by respectable politicians. It is this power that's been fading for nearly twenty years.

Which, by the way, explains why this article leaves out the details that would allow readers to form their own judgement on its thesis. The Post wants journalism to return to what it was a generation ago: an institution that controlled the space of permitted discussion of all political questions. The Citizens United decision is a major obstacle to such a restoration; therefore the Post wishes to persuade its readers to reverse that decision. As the facts won't support the claim that Citizens United allows wealthy donors to buy elections, the Post omits the relevant facts, supplying instead anecdotes that are arranged to suggest the conclusion the Post wants us to draw.

Bibliotheca Servare said...

Hey, I'm pretty sure you aren't trying to say that Citizens United was a bad decision, but, just in case, I found this: article to be very illuminating regarding the real issues at stake. I don't always agree with Ken White, or the rest of "Popehat" but I'm always glad to have read their perspectives on issues, I've found. Anyway, I'll shut up now. :-)

Mike said...

The cosmopolitan elites want a needy population, cheap labor, and open borders.

The left wants the same, though for different reasons. For now, the two forces opposed to traditional culture back each other up. The left provides the noble-sounding slogans, and the globalist elite happily funds them (check out some of the groups George Soros funds).

So for now, both ends are against the middle.