It’s the Big Whine of 2014 – the charge that Republican billionaires will “buy” the U.S. Senate, that somehow they’re not playing fair. Campaign spending – including that unleashed by the much-maligned Citizens United Supreme Court decision -- has not visibly tilted in favor of either party. Rather, six years of the Obama administration has led many political donors to seek anonymity, for good reason.
Democrats rail about the “secret money” flowing into political campaigns, alarmed that Americans are allowed to donate anonymously to political causes. A recent front-page piece in The New York Times breathlessly reported that more than half of all campaign advertising was being funded by organizations that “disclose little or nothing about their donors.” They claim that such funds have “overwhelmingly benefited Republican candidates.”
What they don’t say is that Democrats are more than holding their own when it comes to shaking down wealthy contributors. As Politico recently reported, Democrats are “actually raising more big money than their adversaries.” Leading that race is Democrat Tom Steyer, granddaddy of the SuperPacs, having donated $55 million to his NextGen Climate Action Committee since 2013. The former pace setter was Republican Sheldon Adelson, who gave $49.8 million in the 2012 cycle.
SuperPac totals do not include money that can be donated anonymously to non-profit organizations – so-called 501c4s – that may back political groups, and that causes heartburn for the Left. However, there are signs that even including this funding, Democrats are toeing the line with Republicans.
|Senate Majority PAC||$35,986,736||Liberal||$39,846,390|
|House Majority PAC||$17,449,279||Liberal||$22,602,151|
|NextGen Climate Action||$16,218,252||Liberal||$42,889,953|
|Ending Spending Action Fund||$15,912,428||Conservative||$7,208,786|
|Freedom Partners Action Fund||$14,716,789||Conservative||$15,610,771|
|National Assn of Realtors||$9,975,630||Conservative||$8,040,973|
|Put Alaska First PAC||supports Begich||$8,945,406||Liberal||$7,601,339|
|Club for Growth Action||$7,426,716||Conservative||$8,283,345|
As of October 21, 2014, 1,220 groups organized as Super PACs have reported total receipts of $462,494,032 and total independent expenditures of $248,954,446 in the 2014 cycle. – Open Secrets
For instance, Democrats have spent far more in this cycle than Republicans on the effort to target and turn out voters, a strategy that worked so well for President Obama in past elections. The Times says, “In states too close to call like Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, Democrats are making much greater investments in the ground game than Republicans.”
The numbers are substantial. Through June, Colorado spending on staff and voter contact efforts totaled $4.4 million for Democrat Mark Udall compared to $556,000 for Republican Cory Gardner. In North Carolina, Kay Hagan has outspent her GOP rival on voter operations by $3.2 versus $836,000. These efforts are heavily aided by labor unions, who can rely on their large and organized memberships to help usher voters to the polls and go door-to-door encouraging people to register or send in absentee ballots.
The cost of such volunteer efforts are not easy to capture, and probably result in spending for Democrat campaigns being underestimated; even The Times admits, “Not all spending is captured in Federal Election Commission data.”
In addition to outspending Republicans on voter turnout efforts, Democrats have also hit the airwaves with a flood of advertising dollars, courtesy of heavy contributions to Super Pacs such as the Senate Majority PAC, headed by allies of Harry Reid. The Wall Street Journal reports, “The Democratic fundraising has allowed the party and its allies to run more TV advertisements than Republicans in the first two weeks of September in nine of the 10 top Senate races this fall, according to an analysis of political spending by the nonpartisan Wesleyan Media Project.”
It appears that Democrats have hauled in more money than Republicans through Super PACs, which has been countered by GOP fundraising through non-profits like Americans for Prosperity. Why would Republicans avoid disclosing their contributions?
Talk to business leaders and they will tell you that the Obama White House and numerous federal agencies are not only frighteningly partisan but also punitive. A CEO who runs a global company related to the auto industry told me this: “I used to think the regulators in the U.S. were maddeningly slow and bureaucratic, but also straight shooters. Now I’m not so sure. Everything has become political.” That should make every American very, very nervous.
Of course, the poster children for the abuse that can rain down on conservatives are the Koch brothers, who have been defamed by the Left to an almost unimaginable degree. Harry Reid has called David Koch “un-American.” Through July, Reid made 22 speeches on the floor of the Senate about the Kochs. Imagine, Mr. Reid has no time to bring to the Senate many of the job-creating measures passed by the House, but he has ample time to vilify productive Americans. For the record, the Kochs own perfectly legal businesses that employ 60,000 Americans and have given generously to charity. Their crime? Opposing the policies of the Obama administration.
Ditto the Tea Party groups targeted by the IRS, and Gibson Guitars. And, cancer victim and Obamacare critic Bill Elliott who within a month of appearing on Fox News received an audit notice. Add the bundlers for Mitt Romney – well regarded business leaders, some of whom I know -- who for the first time in their lives found themselves subject to aggressive tax audits.
Many business executives speak furtively about their fear of reprisals from the Obama White House. JPMorgan Chase head Jamie Dimon, a long-time Obama supporter who was once described by the president as one of the country’s “smartest bankers,” went rogue when he started criticizing the White House’s “constant attack on business.” His bank was soon under investigation for at least eight different supposed misdeeds, including the dubious charge that hiring well-connected Chinese offspring – the so-called “princelings” -- was a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The firm has coughed up tens of billions of dollars in penalties, and has been quiet of late. Who is surprised?
In a 2012 speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused the Obama administration of attempting to “muffle” critics, in partnership with liberal group Media Matters, with whom the White House long held weekly strategy calls. McConnell noted that the stated goal of Media Matters is to silence conservative voices. One tactic is to alarm the public about the influence of the 501C4s, and then restrict their activities.
That process is underway, aided and abetted by The New York Times et al. My guess? These moves will backfire. Americans cherish their first amendment rights, and are suspicious of a White House that tries to stamp out criticism. Also, it will take more than money to sway voters. Instead of trying to squash critics, President Obama might try providing the leadership the country so desperately needs.
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