We’ve been hearing a lot about political spending this election cycle, and rightfully so. My schtick is that most of the spending this cycle is in soft money, meaning that it’s largely undisclosed and largely unlimited. And it’s happening with both Democrats and Republicans. Here are the following figures for the largest contributors this election cycle, at least thus far:
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: $87.5 million
U.S. Chamber of Commerce: $75 million
American Crossroads (read: Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie): $65 million
Service Employees International Union: $44 million
National Education Association: $40 million
AFSCME, SEIU and the NEA are all giving to Democratic candidates. The Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads are giving to Republican candidates. It’s pretty evenly matched with the Democrats having a marginal advantage over Republicans ($171.5 million-D/$140 million-R). This advantage is rendered meaningless by the fact that Democrats operate in media markets (around cities, the northeast) that are historically more expensive than out in rural areas , where ad buys are far, far cheaper and are more predominantly Republican. So, it’s not far from the mark to say that they’re about dead even.
But, do some math, and you’ll find that for the top five donor bodies alone give $311.5 million in unregulated, unlimited, undisclosed cash for political purposes. This is nuts. This is too much money to not be subject, at a bare, bare minimum, to disclosure to the American public.
What I found disappointing about the media in this is that there was bias on both the right and the left. The Wall Street Journal (the link above) pretty much led with the line that the unions are the biggest single contributors to political spending. The New York Times coverage today focused on one $7 million contribution to Rove’s organization and the top donors to the Chamber of Commerce. And while all of these various facts, taken independently of one another are technically true, they’re misleading. The WSJ didn’t put into context that the figures added up to be roughly equal. And the NYT paints a picture where corporations have all the power.
And this ‘bias,’ frankly is nicer way of saying that you’re being misled. If you’re a regular reader of this, it should be clear that I’m a Democrat with leftist tendencies, but I like to think that I demonstrate enough of a willingness to defy convention from time to time to hit a pitch out to right field. Meaning, I try and be as accurate and honest as I possibly can be, regardless of ideology. And this is one such area where both parties are screwing the American public, and both blocs of voters are being led around like sheep. At great expense to our political process. And to us.
Our political system has, for all intents and purposes, been sold to the highest bidder at an auction where you and I have no hope of ever being able to enter a winning bid. To argue that any one private citizen* is able to make this kind of an impact, is utterly, absolutely delusional.
*Other than the esteemed Karl Rove or billionaires. This is not hyperbole.