Democrats are raising more money than Republicans

The Democratic presidential candidates are raising much more money than the Republican candidates. [Read more...]

Corporations aren’t funding campaigns after all?

When the Supreme Court ruled that the law limiting corporate contributions was an infringement of the right to free speech, the conventional wisdom was–and is–that now big businesses will buy politicians by funding their elections.  But it hasn’t turned out that way.  Corporations aren’t giving much money at all to political candidates.

The ruling allowing unlimited “corporate” giving–”corporate” meaning collective organizations, not just business corporations–is indeed magnifying the reach of  issue-driven organizations, which would be in accord with free political speech.  And wealthy individuals, such as George Soros and the Koch brothers (notice how those who demonize one don’t demonize the other), can throw their weight around with their money.  One might still worry about the influence of campaign contributions.  But the point here is that business corporations are not, on the whole, giving many political contributions.  They have found that giving money to politicians can just alienate some of their customers and that they can get more influence for their buck by hiring lobbyists. [Read more...]

The Democrats’ billionaires

As Democrats demonize the Koch brothers for donating money to conservatives, their own billionaires are getting organized to make the most of their political donations. [Read more...]

Funding weaker opponents

In some creative campaign finance shenanigans, some Democratic candidates have been giving financial and advertising support to Republicans whom they think would be easier to defeat than their primary opponents.  This includes funding attack ads casting doubt on whether the frontrunner is conservative enough, all in a ploy to get the more conservative and easier-to-beat candidate on the ticket. [Read more...]

You can now give to as many candidates as you want

The Supreme Court struck down the limits to the number of candidates a person is allowed to give money to and the total amount you are allowed to give.   Left standing is the limit a person can give to one candidate–$48,600–but the law had limited total giving to $123,200.  That meant that a donor wanting to give the maximum amount could only support nine candidates.

I know that critics of the ruling are claiming that this opens the door to political corruption and gives rich people the opportunity to buy candidates.  But are there any constitutional grounds for objecting to this ruling?  Aren’t limitations of political activity unconstitutional on the face of it? [Read more...]

Setting policies by means of SuperPACS

A case-study in contemporary policy-setting.  The Republicans put off Hispanics, which is arguably demographic suicide.  So how to change the anti-immigration stance associated with the party?  Reason? Discussion?  Debate?  Coming to a consensus?  No.  Start a super PAC that will give money to pro-immigration Republicans and sponsor primary opponents against Republicans who vote the wrong way.

Prominent Republicans are launching a new super PAC they hope will help begin repairing the political damage left by years of anti-illegal-immigrant rhetoric that has dominated GOP primaries and alienated crucial Hispanic voters.

The organization, to be called Republicans for Immigration Reform, aims to undermine what organizers call the “extremists” who have pushed party nominees to stake out far-right positions such as opposing a pathway to legalization for millions of illegal workers, students and children.

Even before it raises money and establishes target races for 2014, the group’s organizers told The Washington Post, it will help smooth the way for wavering Republican lawmakers to vote next year for an immigration overhaul. Such a measure suddenly gained momentum last week after GOP leaders watched President Obama’s dominance among Hispanic voters help carry him to an electoral college landslide.

Spearheading the group is Carlos Gutierrez, the Cuban American commerce secretary under President George W. Bush. He is joined by Washington lawyer Charlie Spies, co-founder of the pro-Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future, which, illustrating the very trend that the new PAC aims to thwart, aired some tough ads during this year’s primaries accusing Romney’s rivals of supporting “amnesty” and being “too liberal on immigration.”

“There’s currently only energy on the anti-immigration reform side, and we want to be able to provide some cover for Republicans that vote in support of an immigration reform approach,” Spies said.

Spies and Gutierrez declined to cite a fundraising goal, but both enjoy close ties to corporate America, which generally favors looser immigration laws. A super PAC can accept unlimited donations. Spies’s pro-Romney group raised $142 million for the 2012 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

“This is not small ball,” Gutierrez said. “We’re serious, and we are going to push the debates on immigration reform to a place where I believe the Republican Party should be in the 21st century.”

via New super PAC hopes to give cover to pro-immigration Republicans – The Washington Post.

Let us bracket the issue of immigration reform and whether Republicans need to loosen up on the question and make major efforts to attract Hispanics.  I myself agree that something on this order needs to be done.  So let’s not talk about that.  Let’s discuss this method of forming policy and making laws.

On any issue, we can now expect a SuperPAC to fund one side and probably another SuperPAC to fund the other side.  (I am not disputing their “rights” to do so.  Let’s not talk about that either.)  They work by rewarding, threatening, and punishing lawmakers with money, using campaign contributions–given, withheld, or given to an opponent–as a means of coercing support of a legislative agenda.

Doesn’t this replace democracy with plutocracy, so that money becomes the actual means of governing?  This strike me as a step beyond simply raising money for a campaign.  As we have seen, raising and spending money will not necessarily win you an election.  You get special interests making contributions but that may or may not determine how a lawmaker votes.  This tactic, by contrast, seeks to determine which candidates can run for office in the first place and fixes their position on an issue, which is determined not by the give-and-take of a rational process but by the SuperPAC that has quite literally bought their vote.