The Washington Post ran a story Monday about the big donors behind the Republican Super PACs, a group of millionaires the Post dubs “the power players in the GOP primary.” The piece is accompanied by a scary picture of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, looking like one of the giant heads that pronounced General Zod guilty at the beginning of Superman: The Move.
Here also we learn about Harold C. Simmons, “a billionaire corporate raider from Texas,” who has poured big money into both Romney and Gingrich-aligned Super PACs. The Post wails about the danger of a tiny group of presumptively sinister fat cats controlling politics through those dastardly Super PACs. (They wouldn’t be “presumptively sinister” if they were Obama donors, of course.)
Simmons is part of a rarefied group of millionaires and billionaires acting as kingmakers in the GOP contest, often helping to decide, with a simple transfer of money, which candidate might survive another day.
Although many of these mega-donors have long participated in politics, none were able to wield the kind of influence now possible under loosened campaign finance regulations, which allow super PACs and other outside groups to spend unlimited amounts on political races.
In January, just five donors gave a total of $19 million, a quarter of the money raised for the presidential race that month, according to a Washington Post analysis of new contribution data filed this week. Overall, 23 people have directed about $54 million to super PACs this cycle, helping to bankroll a tide of negative ads in primary-contest states.
And all of this filthy Super PAC money has brought us… a perpetually unsettled campaign in which the presumptive front-runner can’t seal the deal, leading to a small but significant chance that a brokered GOP convention awaits us. At the very least, it would seem these “kingmakers” are balancing each other out.
The reason we have Super PACs, which are a rather silly contrivance, is that the Left’s war on freedom of political speech hasn’t been working out the way they planned. The ultimate goal behind “getting the money out of politics” is enhancing the power of the media, who remain by far the largest and oldest Super PAC in existence. The pro-Obama Super PAC known as Home Box Office was so convinced that Sarah Palin would be the GOP candidate that they took a book which only tangentially mentioned her, and turned it into a big-budget movie savaging her.
Liberals complain endlessly about Fox News. A very well-funded, and bizarrely tax-exempt, left-wing organization called Media Matters is almost entirely dedicated to attacking Fox, going so far as to consider hiring private detectives to dig up dirt on Fox employees. Media Matters gets a big chunk of its money from a single billionaire, George Soros. Why isn’t he lamented as “part of a rarefied group of millionaires and billionaires acting as kingmakers?”
Now, imagine most of the media was like Fox News, and had been so for the past forty years. Do you think liberals would be so keen to insist that private funding should be squeezed out of politics, giving the media nearly unchallenged influence during elections?
It would make a lot more sense if Sheldon Adelson could contribute big money directly to Newt Gingrich, with everyone in America fully aware that he had done so. The Gingrich campaign would then be directly responsible for all of the speech Adelson’s money had funded, instead of watching a separate organization – which they are prohibited by law from coordinating with – speak in the candidate’s name. The media would be free to badger Adelson about why he gave so much money to Gingrich, and relay his answers, or refusal to answer, to the general public. There would be full transparency, full disclosure, full recognition of free speech rights, and a fighting chance to advance a candidacy the media elite dislikes.
Besides, it’s not as if Super PACs are the only way billionaires can influence politics. Just ask Warren Buffett. Or George Kaiser. I’ll take Sheldon Adelson over George Kaiser any day of the week. At least Adelson isn’t looking to grab fistfuls of our tax money for “green energy” garbage. His casinos actually make money.
Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent offers side-splitting comedy by way of analysis:
The stories focus on the GOP primary, but they also amount to a sobering reminder of what Obama will be up against in the general election, and help explain the decision by Democrats to embrace Super PACs in response.
While this type of outside money is bad for democracy no matter who is spending it, Obama and Dems face a simple choice. Either they can lead by example and shun Super PAC money, which would have amonuted [sic] to setting an example that Republicans will never, ever follow, while conceding dominance to them in outside spending and the TV ads it will fund. Or they can work within the rules as Republicans themselves have defined them, while working to change those rules.
Presuming these GOP donors will continue to sink money into the election at the above rates once the Republican nominee is selected, it’s not hard to see why Dems opted for the latter. The question is whether the Dem embrace of Super PACs will make it tougher to leverage the public’s populist mood against Republicans in the wake of outsized revelations like the above.
(Emphases mine, spelling error in the original.) Yes, if only Billion Dollar Barack would take the lead and set a great example for keeping filthy money out of politics! Maybe he could have canceled one of the 92 big-money fundraisers he’s held over the past ten months, and instead given a stirring speech about the evils of excessive campaign spending. He could have reminded us all of how he turned away from the lure of big bucks and stuck with his 2008 vow to limit his donor haul, and accept public matching funds, just like John McCain did.
Oh, wait a second, Obama didn’t do that, did he? He broke his promise and went for the fat bankroll. $85 million in public matching funds wasn’t good enough for him. McCain is the one who kept his promise.
Obama’s Super PAC, Priorities USA Action, hasn’t been able to collect a lot of money. Half of its measly $4.4 million has come from a single donor, Jeffrey Katzenberg of Dreamworks. Why does that surprise anyone? Obama’s actual campaign has been vacuuming up millions at $38,000-per-plate fundraisers. Who’s got money left for his Super PAC – especially when Obama can expect completely unregulated, in-kind media contributions worth countless millions from the mainstream press and the entertainment industry?