The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) estimates that $4 Billion Dollars – that’s with a “B” – will be spent on the 2010 midterm elections. The 1998 mid-tern election cost $1.61 billion. The 2002 election cost $2.18 billion and the 2006 federal midterm election cost $2.85 billion.
The 2000 Bush v Gore presidential election cycle, at $3.1 billion, cost less than the projection for this year’s mid-term. The 2004 presidential election cycle was tallied at $4.14 billion, slightly more than what CRP is predicting for the 2010 midterm cycle. However, the 2008 presidential election cycle still remains the most expensive in history at nearly $5.3 billion.
Money is flowing in from a variety of sources, from contributions of under $200 from committed individuals to multi-million dollar contributions from special interests.
The Center’s findings “are largely based on fund-raising data reported to the Federal Election Commission into this month by all candidates for federal office, party committees, political action committees and federally focused 527 committees. [Their] estimate also includes independent expenditures on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts by outside political action committees and other organizations to support and oppose candidates.”
As reported on the Center’s Open Secrets.org, many of these funding entities “play a game of hide and seek,” skirting disclosure by “hiding their funders behind the iron curtain that is their tax exempt status.”
CRP reports that, “These tax-exempt groups are registered with the IRS as 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5) or 501(c)(6) entities. By law, they are prohibited from having a ‘primary purpose’ of engaging in politics. Nevertheless, a number of these groups are this election cycle spending seven- or eight-figure amounts on political messaging at the federal level.”
According to Open Secrets.org, “Identifiably conservative organizations are spending more than $2 on advertisements and other communications for every $1 liberal organizations do. While corporations are behind much of this money, many of these companies have skirted public scrutiny by laundering their cash through intermediary organizations, which often sport nondescript names and don’t immediately, if ever, reveal who funds them.”
But who contributes to them? By law, these organizations are not required to disclose their donors. In some cases, the funders’ identities are required to be reported to the IRS, but that’s as far as it goes. The IRS may know, but we won’t.
The bottom line is that the public cannot know; it can only surmise. Regulations prohibit these tax-exempt organizations from specifically saying “vote for” or “vote against.” However, you will recognize them by the message that has their dander up and their requests to call a specific candidate and demand that he or she change positions on the issue or action that has them all riled up.
This money floods the TV and radio airways and mailboxes with political messages that advance the agenda of the organization.
The more visible organizations are political action committees or IRS-designated 527 organizations , often called “super PACs.” To some degree, these political vehicles report donor information to either the Federal Election Commission or Internal Revenue Service.
Any port in a storm…
Even more worth noting than the huge sums of money being spent in this year’s election, unleashed by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, is how the money has been spent throughout this two-year cycle.
CRP reports that, “As Democrat Barack Obama entered the White House in January 2009, people and political action committees associated with the health sector that month donated about two-thirds of their federal-level contributions to his partisan brethren. The sector continued to favor Democrats for most of the year.”
Just as Democrat-led health care reform legislation began to near final passage, the trend flipped . “In each month since, health interests have donated more money to federal-level Republican candidates and committees. And in September, a preliminary analysis of campaign finance filings by the Center indicates that the health sector donated more than 60 percent of its political money to the GOP – by far, the greatest percentage of the 2010 election cycle.”
“The change of fortune in 2010 is stark. During no single month this year have Democrats received a greater percentage of campaign cash from either the broad health or finance, insurance and real estate sectors.”
“An even more extreme example of a shift away from Democrats comes from the energy sector, which in January 2009 fueled Democrats with 56 percent of its federal-level political contributions. By September, preliminary numbers indicate Republicans benefitted from 74 percent of the sector’s cash.”
These flip-flops are not accidental or capricious. These industries – healthcare, finance, energy – were using their money to shape the legislation as much to their liking as they could. However, they never intended to support the Democrats’ intentions to protect the public, the consumer and the environment. When push came to shove, they went where they always go — to Republicans.
Pimps and whores…
Until the influence of money is removed from our elections, the United States will never truly serve the needs of “the people.” Corporate money does what it always has done. It persuades the public to “buy” what it wants bought. It buys power and that power writes legislation and regulation. Sooner or later, Americans will demand that their government represent them and not corporations. The only question is: Will that happen in time to preserve the nation for its citizens, not “Citizens United”?