Commentary Magazine


Topic: campaign finance

Dems’ Plan to Counter Criticism: Outlaw It

A common pattern in American political discourse is for conservatives to accuse liberals of some statist extremism, liberals to insist the complaint has no merit whatsoever, and then when it’s clear conservatives are on to something liberals lament, more in sorrow than in anger, that conservatives had a point but took it way too far. How vindicated conservatives then feel if information comes to light to back up their warnings about the slippery slope of state power.

The evolution of the Democrats’ deranged attacks on the Koch brothers and political participation in general has followed precisely this pattern. The trickle of mentions of the Kochs turned into a flood, as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became thoroughly incapable of discussing any topic–campaign finance, Ukraine, the minimum wage–without calling out the libertarian philanthropists. He called their participation in the political process “un-American” in an ever-escalating crusade to declare them former people and seek to pressure the judiciary into permitting limitations on free speech rights.

Conservatives warned that high-profile Democrats’ hostility to the First Amendment was liable to result in the curbing of Americans’ constitutional rights. Liberals scoffed. Yet now, the Hill reports, Democrats–who haven’t exactly been models of subtlety, but who at least permitted liberals some plausible deniability–are through beating around the bush. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has announced his party’s newest midterm election strategy: amend the Constitution to rein in its free speech protections. From the Hill:

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A common pattern in American political discourse is for conservatives to accuse liberals of some statist extremism, liberals to insist the complaint has no merit whatsoever, and then when it’s clear conservatives are on to something liberals lament, more in sorrow than in anger, that conservatives had a point but took it way too far. How vindicated conservatives then feel if information comes to light to back up their warnings about the slippery slope of state power.

The evolution of the Democrats’ deranged attacks on the Koch brothers and political participation in general has followed precisely this pattern. The trickle of mentions of the Kochs turned into a flood, as Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became thoroughly incapable of discussing any topic–campaign finance, Ukraine, the minimum wage–without calling out the libertarian philanthropists. He called their participation in the political process “un-American” in an ever-escalating crusade to declare them former people and seek to pressure the judiciary into permitting limitations on free speech rights.

Conservatives warned that high-profile Democrats’ hostility to the First Amendment was liable to result in the curbing of Americans’ constitutional rights. Liberals scoffed. Yet now, the Hill reports, Democrats–who haven’t exactly been models of subtlety, but who at least permitted liberals some plausible deniability–are through beating around the bush. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer has announced his party’s newest midterm election strategy: amend the Constitution to rein in its free speech protections. From the Hill:

Democratic leaders on Wednesday unveiled a plan to vote on a constitutional amendment “very soon” to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizens United v. FEC and McCutcheon v. FEC, which have empowered wealthy donors such as Charles and David Koch.

The amendment has virtually no chance of passing this year because it must garner two-thirds support from both chambers of Congress and receive ratification from three-quarters of the states. Democrats believe it will help them preserve their Senate majority, however.

Campaign finance reform traditionally rates low on voters’ lists of concerns, but Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate Democrats’ chief political strategist, believes a battle over a constitutional amendment will bolster their populist economic message.

“The constitutional amendment we know requires two-thirds, it’s a long hard road. But given the McCutcheon decision we have to begin it,” he said. “Most Americans don’t believe the system works in their favor. We are showing whose side you’re on.”

Now, of course the idea of amending the Constitution itself isn’t crazy, and Schumer should be commended for at least adhering to the process. But the First Amendment is rarely the target. Voters tend to be pretty fond of that one, though Democrats increasingly aren’t.

Campaign-finance restrictions of the sort Democrats favor are quite plainly incumbent protection plans. Democrats have been taking a beating lately in the polls, as public opinion has soured on their flailing agenda. So Schumer has proposed a solution: no need to change the policies to adhere to public opinion if you can just restrict the public’s ability to express that opinion.

A constitutional amendment to outlaw criticism is a bit heavyhanded even for someone like Schumer. But it has the effect of confirming, from the mouths of Democrats themselves, that yes, there is a slippery slope from criticizing the wealthy to explicitly targeting constitutional rights–and they intend to slide down it head-first.

Obviously the attempt will fail to get the votes; whatever their faults, it’s doubtful most of the Democrats running for reelection have completely lost their minds. Additionally, the Democrats have already sacrificed seats for The Cause, by voting for ObamaCare and then getting their clocks cleaned in the following midterms. I’m not sure how many times the White House and Democratic congressional leadership can hope to get their party to vote for abusive federal power grabs that are openly hostile to public opinion and individual rights.

The point, according to Schumer and Co., is really about messaging anyway. The message is this: they have to take away your rights in order to take away the Kochs’ rights. Democrats are keen on fairness, and it’s only fair to legally bar everyone from certain constitutionally protected political activism in order to weaken Democrats’ opponents. It’s possible this sounded less crazy in Schumer’s head before he announced it, but either way he seems pretty committed to it now, a fact which I imagine delights Republican candidates across the country.

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Demonizing SCOTUS: The OCare Precedent

When Chief Justice John Roberts rewrote ObamaCare from the bench in order to save it, most of the ramifications were immediately apparent. But there was one aspect of the stunt that as a member of the Supreme Court Roberts should have been sensitive to: precedent. Having caved to a public intimidation campaign from the president and his congressional allies (as well as the media) Roberts signaled that the way to get a conservative justice to discard his better judgment and rule against constitutional law was to impugn the court’s reputation in the public square.

Be mean to John Roberts and his friends, in other words, and you can have your welfare state for all he cares. This was among the most damaging effects of Roberts’s call back in 2012. And unsurprisingly, Democrats have learned their lesson. I wrote at the time that within days of the decision the media had gone back to bashing Roberts and the high court’s poll numbers had dropped. But Democrats had a found a well they were certain to return to in times of desperation. And as the Hill reports today, that time has come:

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When Chief Justice John Roberts rewrote ObamaCare from the bench in order to save it, most of the ramifications were immediately apparent. But there was one aspect of the stunt that as a member of the Supreme Court Roberts should have been sensitive to: precedent. Having caved to a public intimidation campaign from the president and his congressional allies (as well as the media) Roberts signaled that the way to get a conservative justice to discard his better judgment and rule against constitutional law was to impugn the court’s reputation in the public square.

Be mean to John Roberts and his friends, in other words, and you can have your welfare state for all he cares. This was among the most damaging effects of Roberts’s call back in 2012. And unsurprisingly, Democrats have learned their lesson. I wrote at the time that within days of the decision the media had gone back to bashing Roberts and the high court’s poll numbers had dropped. But Democrats had a found a well they were certain to return to in times of desperation. And as the Hill reports today, that time has come:

Senate Democrats and liberal groups are mounting a pressure campaign against the Supreme Court, hoping to influence future decisions by blasting conservative justices for alleged political bias.

The effort from the left also portrays the high court as an instrument rigged to help the wealthy, and is intended to energize Democratic voters and increase turnout in the midterm elections.

Some legal experts see the effort as akin to basketball or soccer players “working the ref” in a high-stakes game.

Critics say Democratic leaders used a similar strategy in 2010, when they piled on the court for striking down the ban on political spending by corporations in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Some court watchers speculated that Chief Justice John Roberts felt chastened by the angry reaction and sought to avoid another uproar, when he crafted the majority decision in 2012 that largely upheld ObamaCare.

“The left clearly tried to work the refs on the Affordable Care Act,” said Randy Barnett, a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. “They worked the refs after Citizens United, which helped set things up for the Affordable Care Act challenge. If it seems to work, why not continue? It’s unfortunate, I think, that they’ve been encouraged in this behavior by its apparent success.”

And it’s not just a public disinformation campaign:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senate Rules Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) plan to hold hearings on the court’s ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission striking down aggregate limits on campaign donations. …

Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-Nev.) panned it for granting greater influence to wealthy donors, such as Charles and David Koch, the wealthy conservative donors, whom he again slammed on the Senate floor Monday.

Of course Reid would find a way to turn a complaint about the court into another tool in his quest to turn libertarian activists into former people. In one sense, this is irrational, because it has no intellectual merit and should be beneath the leaders of the world’s greatest deliberative body. But in another sense, it’s completely rational: people respond to incentives, and in his ObamaCare ruling Roberts incentivized demonizing–that’s the Hill’s word–the Supreme Court.

The story notes that chief among the left’s worries is the upcoming ruling on the ObamaCare contraception mandate. And on that note, the best line in the story has to be this: “Democrats say the present-day court lacks the experience to understand the corrupting influence of money in politics, because none of its members have held publicly elected office.” Democrats just don’t believe that law abiding, upstanding men and women who have never been offered a bribe could ever really understand ObamaCare. And you’ve got to admit, they have a point, don’t they?

We may or may not find out if the pressure campaign works. After all, a decision on the case may not be a result of the intimidation tactics, either as a concession to them or as an act of defiance against them. It may be just another ruling on the merits of the case. But that’s one of the consequences of the Democrats’ shenanigans: the idea that the court will rule on the merits of the case becomes only one of several possibilities. Roberts thought he was protecting the legitimacy of the court in his 2012 decision. It’s quite clear now that he has done precisely the opposite.

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Left Is Outraged Charles Koch Would Defend Himself

There are few things that seem to bother people more than hearing rich people complain. At times their complaints really are quite absurd: twice in the last few months a prominent billionaire has compared the plight of America’s wealthy to Nazi Germany’s victims. But that has also, unfortunately, led to a tendency on the part of the chattering classes to pretend that is what wealthy personalities always say, even when it plainly isn’t.

It’s some distant cousin of reductio ad Hitlerum. And it’s what happened when Charles Koch, chairman of Koch Industries, wrote an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal defending himself. The Kochs have been the subject of increasingly unhinged attacks from the left because they donate to libertarian political causes, and there are few things the left despises more than a robust defense of individual liberty in the age of Obama, whose nominating convention was treated to the creepy video proclaiming that “government is the only thing that we all belong to.”

But the very idea that a wealthy person would have the temerity to respond to public attacks on their reputation seems to take people by surprise. Hence, Koch’s Journal column includes the following paragraph:

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There are few things that seem to bother people more than hearing rich people complain. At times their complaints really are quite absurd: twice in the last few months a prominent billionaire has compared the plight of America’s wealthy to Nazi Germany’s victims. But that has also, unfortunately, led to a tendency on the part of the chattering classes to pretend that is what wealthy personalities always say, even when it plainly isn’t.

It’s some distant cousin of reductio ad Hitlerum. And it’s what happened when Charles Koch, chairman of Koch Industries, wrote an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal defending himself. The Kochs have been the subject of increasingly unhinged attacks from the left because they donate to libertarian political causes, and there are few things the left despises more than a robust defense of individual liberty in the age of Obama, whose nominating convention was treated to the creepy video proclaiming that “government is the only thing that we all belong to.”

But the very idea that a wealthy person would have the temerity to respond to public attacks on their reputation seems to take people by surprise. Hence, Koch’s Journal column includes the following paragraph:

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

Which led to this bizarre response from Dave Weigel, under the snarky headline “If You Criticize Wealthy Donors, You’re Basically Hitler”:

You know who else was a despot in the 20th century? The Charles Koch standard is problematic if you think (like I think) that campaign donations should be uncapped but totally disclosed. That, according to the donors (though not McCutcheon himself), leads to character assassination. Donors have a First Amendment right to give money, but their opponents flout that right when they criticize them. Why? That’s an excellent question.

That’s not what Koch said though. Apparently you don’t have to actually compare someone to Hitler to be accused of comparing someone to Hitler. You only have use the word “despot” and the phrase “20th century” in the same sentence. More importantly, when did Koch say his First Amendment rights are being flouted when people “criticize” him? That’s easy–he didn’t!

What Koch is talking about, and what Weigel surely knows, is that Koch is speaking up because he has been the target of constant attacks from the United States Senate majority leader from the chamber floor. Harry Reid actually worked an attack on the Kochs into his reaction to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, as he does for almost anything. Remember, he blamed the debate over aid to Ukraine on the Kochs too.

Even if the effort fails, part of the purpose of this is to find ways to limit political speech, legislatively if necessary. Though Koch doesn’t say it, this actually is a violation of First Amendment protections, which is why such challenges keep ending up in front of the Supreme Court. Additionally, naming and shaming conservative and libertarian donors has another purpose: as we saw recently, those who disagreed with the president were discriminated against by government agencies, including the IRS. They also had private information leaked to political opponents.

Does Weigel not think any of this is a problem? Of course he does–he wrote about it here. He’s less troubled by it than perhaps he should be, but that’s a matter of opinion, and anyway he didn’t ignore it.

Ironically, much of this makes Koch’s point for him. Why is it necessary for writers on the left to pretend Koch said something he didn’t? Because his actual argument is pretty unobjectionable. There seems to be this idea that the wealthy ought to be piñatas–silent as the staggering masses beat the stuffing out of them. Koch didn’t claim he’s deserving of anyone’s pity. But as a businessman whose reputation is being subject to repeated dishonest attacks by prominent politicians, it would be ridiculous for him–and irresponsible to his shareholders–not to defend himself in the public sphere.

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Kochs Shouldn’t Sink to Reid’s Level

I have made no secret of my disdain for Harry Reid’s continued unraveling. Reid’s practice of leveling false charges about other politicians and even private citizens–calling cancer patients liars, for example, because they have been hurt by ObamaCare–from the floor of the Senate is assuredly a new low for the upper chamber. And his demonization of his fellow citizens with whom he disagrees on policy as “un-American” for participating in the electoral process has shown him to be both a proper heir to the vengeful, debased politics of Ted Kennedy as well as a particularly odious opponent of the democratic process.

And so it is precisely because I find his loathsome attacks on the Koch brothers so contemptible that I think the Kochs’ attempt to hit back, however clever, misses the mark. It’s not that the Kochs shouldn’t hit back–they can handle this as they choose, and are certainly entitled to respond to Reid’s mindless demagoguery. But in the ad they apparently released today, they fight fire with fire, taking aim at Reid’s relationship with liberal billionaire donors. National Review’s Eliana Johnson has the video of the ad as well as a brief write-up on it, and it’s clear that the Kochs have decided two can play this game. It would be far preferable if neither did so:

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I have made no secret of my disdain for Harry Reid’s continued unraveling. Reid’s practice of leveling false charges about other politicians and even private citizens–calling cancer patients liars, for example, because they have been hurt by ObamaCare–from the floor of the Senate is assuredly a new low for the upper chamber. And his demonization of his fellow citizens with whom he disagrees on policy as “un-American” for participating in the electoral process has shown him to be both a proper heir to the vengeful, debased politics of Ted Kennedy as well as a particularly odious opponent of the democratic process.

And so it is precisely because I find his loathsome attacks on the Koch brothers so contemptible that I think the Kochs’ attempt to hit back, however clever, misses the mark. It’s not that the Kochs shouldn’t hit back–they can handle this as they choose, and are certainly entitled to respond to Reid’s mindless demagoguery. But in the ad they apparently released today, they fight fire with fire, taking aim at Reid’s relationship with liberal billionaire donors. National Review’s Eliana Johnson has the video of the ad as well as a brief write-up on it, and it’s clear that the Kochs have decided two can play this game. It would be far preferable if neither did so:

The ad, “Steyer Infection,” juxtaposes Harry Reid’s denunciation of the Koch brothers with a narrative about Reid’s relationship with billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and his brother Jim, who runs a ratings service for children’s products.

“This is about two very wealthy brothers who intend to buy their own Congress,” it shows Reid saying in a speech earlier this month on the Senate floor. “You see when you make billions of dollars a year, you can be I guess as immoral and dishonest as your money will allow you to be.”​

The narrator says, “Billionaires like Tom Steyer, who just hosted Reid and other Senate Democrats at his San Francisco mansion? Steyer has a history of ‘environmentally destructive business ventures.’ And he wants regulators to strangle energy opportunities here in America, even though he helped finance the second-largest coal company in Indonesia.”

Here’s the ad itself:

Again, it is rational to respond to allegations and to push back on Reid. There’s no question Reid’s a hypocrite, though that’s far from his worst quality. As Johnson’s report notes, the Kochs are apparently being targeted as “out-of-state billionaires” in ads funded in part by Michael Bloomberg–in other words, an out-of-state billionaire. And Reid’s unseemly brand of crony capitalism is certainly worth addressing.

But the Kochs’ ad doesn’t merely explain that Reid accepts support from prominent billionaires while slamming those who are supported by other, conservative billionaires. It turns into an attack ad on the Steyers. If the Kochs and Steyers take this game to its logical conclusion, the airwaves would be blanketed during election season by wealthy philanthropists attacking each other. No thank you.

Such a development would reinforce the notion–pushed by Reid, among others–that what is important in these statewide elections is not who is running for office but who is funding them. It actually embraces the stereotype of politicians as bought-and-paid-for agents of powerful moneyed interests. The Kochs presumably think this is a caricature–otherwise why take it so personally–but this would bring the caricature to life.

The national media’s lack of outrage, with rare notable exceptions, toward Reid’s McCarthyism is certainly dispiriting. The silver lining, I suppose, is that the next time the mainstream papers complain about a lack of civility in American politics the only appropriate response would be to laugh them out of the room. Indeed, the New York Times editorial board even gave its endorsement to this abuse of power. Apparently the problem with Joe McCarthy, in the Times’s estimation, was that he was simply working for the wrong political party.

Nonetheless, two wrongs don’t make a right. The ad attacking the Steyers attempts to prove Reid’s hypocrisy by applying Reid’s own floor speeches to the Steyers’ political and economic activity, implying the path of attack is fair game. Reid’s example is one that should not be followed. It would be quite troublesome if it instead became standard.

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Money in Politics: Dems Still Don’t Understand that Issues Matter

In the summer of 2012, heading into the last few months of the presidential election, a Bloomberg story offered a corrective to liberal propaganda about conservative money in politics. It was headlined “Unions Gain Under Citizens United Decision They Seek to Overturn,” and explained that “With many union members living in toss-up states such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, labor’s increased efficiency might make a difference.”

Just how much unions gained from Citizens United has now become clear. But so has the fact that the concentration on Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court struck down unconstitutional limits on political participation, is misleading when trying to understand just how dishonest liberal attacks on campaign donations really are. While the left’s paranoid obsession with the libertarian-leaning Koch brothers has always tended toward the absurd, a recent study of campaign donations going back a quarter-century informed us that:

Six of the top 10 political spenders over the last 25 years are unions, including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Emloyees (sic) ($60 million) and the National Education Association ($53 million), the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

The Koch brothers, by comparison, ranked 59th on Open Secrets’ list. The brothers have spent $18 million since 1989, less than 20 percent of what Act Blue has spent since 2004.

That doesn’t mean the Koch brothers and the organizations they support don’t have influence or that unions control elections. Instead, the more important takeaway is about the limits of spending when it comes to trying to convince voters of something they don’t believe or don’t care about.

A case in point is this week’s media blitz about liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, the largest individual donor in 2013. Steyer has decided to throw much more of his money at congressional elections because of his passion for global warming activism. But even Democrats are skeptical of his new effort, and the reason for that skepticism is telling. Politico reports:

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In the summer of 2012, heading into the last few months of the presidential election, a Bloomberg story offered a corrective to liberal propaganda about conservative money in politics. It was headlined “Unions Gain Under Citizens United Decision They Seek to Overturn,” and explained that “With many union members living in toss-up states such as Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, labor’s increased efficiency might make a difference.”

Just how much unions gained from Citizens United has now become clear. But so has the fact that the concentration on Citizens United, in which the Supreme Court struck down unconstitutional limits on political participation, is misleading when trying to understand just how dishonest liberal attacks on campaign donations really are. While the left’s paranoid obsession with the libertarian-leaning Koch brothers has always tended toward the absurd, a recent study of campaign donations going back a quarter-century informed us that:

Six of the top 10 political spenders over the last 25 years are unions, including American Federation of State, County and Municipal Emloyees (sic) ($60 million) and the National Education Association ($53 million), the nation’s largest teachers’ union.

The Koch brothers, by comparison, ranked 59th on Open Secrets’ list. The brothers have spent $18 million since 1989, less than 20 percent of what Act Blue has spent since 2004.

That doesn’t mean the Koch brothers and the organizations they support don’t have influence or that unions control elections. Instead, the more important takeaway is about the limits of spending when it comes to trying to convince voters of something they don’t believe or don’t care about.

A case in point is this week’s media blitz about liberal billionaire Tom Steyer, the largest individual donor in 2013. Steyer has decided to throw much more of his money at congressional elections because of his passion for global warming activism. But even Democrats are skeptical of his new effort, and the reason for that skepticism is telling. Politico reports:

Opponents and even some Democrats also question whether Steyer will find broad support for a platform that consists of issues like climate change — traditionally, not a huge vote-getter at the polls — and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“The economy continues to be the top concern for a majority of the American people, and they’re going to want to focus the agenda solely on climate change?” asked Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Manley said he supports taking steps on climate but isn’t sure how much impact Steyer will have. …

Greens are taking a more optimistic view, welcoming the chance that Steyer will help their side even the score after four years of liberal chafing at the big-spending politics that Citizens United has wrought.

“The bottom line is that we need much more environmentalist money in politics,” said League of Conservation Voters President Gene Karpinski, whose group has worked closely with Steyer. “Our side will never outspend the big polluters in the fossil fuel industry, but we need to make sure our message is heard, and Tom’s increased investments will help make sure that happens.”

It turns out that, money aside, issues actually matter. The country doesn’t care much about Steyer’s apocalyptic visions and probably won’t much appreciate hearing from a billionaire that they have to make financial sacrifices in order to soothe his conscience. The greens want their message to be heard, but Democrats seem to be aware of the danger in this: the greens’ message is one of hysterical prophecies of doom. Democratic politicians can either listen to Steyer or to their actual constituents.

Steyer, then, is setting out to find the answer to the following question: is there enough money in the world to make people care about his agenda? The Politico story frames Steyer’s activism as a challenge to the Kochs, and although it’s an extraordinarily silly and inapt comparison that reveals just how the media’s Koch addiction has disrupted their ability see clearly on these issues, there is still a valuable lesson. Here’s Politico’s framing of Steyer’s battle:

The former hedge fund executive may be pledging to spend $100 million or more to make climate change a prime election issue in 2014 and beyond, but he’s still a long way from matching the conservative empire of Charles and David Koch — a sprawling network of groups whose diverse causes range from attacking Obamacare to opposing incentives for rooftop solar panels.

So is it the money or the issues? They both matter, but let’s ask the question this way: have the Kochs been more successful than Steyer because they, like Steyer, spend lots of money, or because their high-profile causes align with the concerns and opinions of the public far more than those of Steyer?

Steyer’s effort then should really be understood as an attempt to distract the public from the issues they actually care about–which the Kochs address. This is understandable: ObamaCare is a Democratic Party creation that has unleashed personal suffering and economic devastation–and it’s only just getting started. But the lesson may be not that Steyer has to outspend the Kochs but that he should consider listening to the voters before throwing money at them.

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What Liberals Learn From Citizens United

For the past three years, liberals and Democrats have bemoaned the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that invalidated parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prevented groups and individuals from using money to advocate on issues and elections. Their lament has portrayed the ruling as the end of American democracy since it will lead in their view to the moneyed classes and big businesses buying all elections and dooming worthy progressives and their causes to perpetual defeat. But if the successes of Democrats in raising money to finance pro-Obama advocacy groups that successfully trashed the reputations of Republicans like Mitt Romney didn’t convince the left that Citizens United was actually the best thing that could have happened to them, then today’s story in Politico that details how liberal groups are beating conservatives like a drum in the competition to raise money for non-party groups ought to.

As Politico reports, super PACs backing Democrats in prospective 2014 and 2016 races have decisively outraised Republican groups in the first half of the year. There are a number of reasons for this, the chief of which is the way the 2012 results discouraged conservatives. But leaving aside the significance of the tactical advantage the incumbent party and its cheering section have gained this year, the real story is the way this illustrates the wisdom of the Citizens United ruling. Rather than creating a system that would undermine democratic discourse, the court’s reassertion of the right to free speech has opened up a free market of ideas that has made American democracy even more robust. Though the GOP may not be happy about the current fundraising numbers, the ability of liberals to use the law to raise money to advocate for their point of view shows just how wrongheaded their opposition to the ruling has been.

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For the past three years, liberals and Democrats have bemoaned the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision that invalidated parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prevented groups and individuals from using money to advocate on issues and elections. Their lament has portrayed the ruling as the end of American democracy since it will lead in their view to the moneyed classes and big businesses buying all elections and dooming worthy progressives and their causes to perpetual defeat. But if the successes of Democrats in raising money to finance pro-Obama advocacy groups that successfully trashed the reputations of Republicans like Mitt Romney didn’t convince the left that Citizens United was actually the best thing that could have happened to them, then today’s story in Politico that details how liberal groups are beating conservatives like a drum in the competition to raise money for non-party groups ought to.

As Politico reports, super PACs backing Democrats in prospective 2014 and 2016 races have decisively outraised Republican groups in the first half of the year. There are a number of reasons for this, the chief of which is the way the 2012 results discouraged conservatives. But leaving aside the significance of the tactical advantage the incumbent party and its cheering section have gained this year, the real story is the way this illustrates the wisdom of the Citizens United ruling. Rather than creating a system that would undermine democratic discourse, the court’s reassertion of the right to free speech has opened up a free market of ideas that has made American democracy even more robust. Though the GOP may not be happy about the current fundraising numbers, the ability of liberals to use the law to raise money to advocate for their point of view shows just how wrongheaded their opposition to the ruling has been.

McCain-Feingold and every other campaign finance restriction that has been passed since Watergate was based on the assumption that money corrupts politics and the less spent on campaigns and issues the better off the republic was. However, none of the rules actually drove money out of politics. All it did was to make it harder for parties to spend as they always had done and to cause political operatives to create new vehicles for spending and advocacy. The laws primarily served as an incumbent protection program since challengers always find it harder to raise money and gain awareness for their issues. But they also served the purpose of restricting the one kind of activity that the founders most wanted to protect: political speech. Since the only way most people or groups have of making their voices heard is to purchase air time or via other forms of mass communication, the ability to raise and spend money is vital to create an atmosphere of free discourse.

That is exactly what Citizens United accomplished. The result is a public square that is often more chaotic than some would like. But if liberals had their way and campaign finance was solely the province of the government as it doled out small amounts to candidates, what we would have is an America where only a few could effectively speak out. It would also allow the mainstream media—whose political advocacy is constitutionally protected—a near monopoly on the debate. Some liberals may lament that aspect of the court’s reforms, but surely even they understand that such a system isn’t healthy for any democracy.

The post-Citizens United world is one in which conservatives are free to speak up for their issues and liberals can do the same. That means liberals must stomach conservative advocacy trashing President Obama’s programs and Democrats in hyperbolic terms while conservatives must endure paeans to ObamaCare and character assassination of Republican candidates. That can make this messy and doesn’t always encourage civility. But it is also a place where free speech of all kinds flourishes.

More free speech doesn’t give either party or ideological grouping any natural edge. What it does do is to open the floodgates for all comers. The last two years should have shown liberals that a free marketplace of ideas is just as likely to help them as to hurt them. Money isn’t evil, it’s just a tool that enables more communication. Unless their goal is to suppress speech—something that conservatives and media critics suspect—they should stop inveighing against Citizens United and simply enjoy the benefits and the drawbacks of life in a country where free speech is protected by the courts.

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IRS Defenders Are Still Relying on Debunked Claims

One of the strangest and weakest defenses of the IRS’s campaign targeting conservative and pro-Israel nonprofit applicants was that the blatant violation of the constitutional rights of Americans who disagreed with President Obama was the natural reaction of the poor, overworked bureaucrat. We were told that conservatives “swamped” the IRS with nonprofit applications after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision struck down some restrictions on political speech.

This excuse never made much sense, and it certainly didn’t justify what happened: President Obama publicly slammed conservative nonprofits as shady and possibly foreign-funded and complained they had patriotic-sounding names to hide their nefarious purposes; he encouraged extra scrutiny of these groups; Democrats in the Senate then pushed the IRS to target the kinds of groups the president warned about; the IRS did so. Blaming conservatives for applying to participate in the nonprofit sector and thus forcing the IRS to harass and silence them is just as nonsensical as it sounds. But what about the underlying point: were those poor IRS officials flooded with conservative applicants? No, as the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta points out:

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One of the strangest and weakest defenses of the IRS’s campaign targeting conservative and pro-Israel nonprofit applicants was that the blatant violation of the constitutional rights of Americans who disagreed with President Obama was the natural reaction of the poor, overworked bureaucrat. We were told that conservatives “swamped” the IRS with nonprofit applications after the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision struck down some restrictions on political speech.

This excuse never made much sense, and it certainly didn’t justify what happened: President Obama publicly slammed conservative nonprofits as shady and possibly foreign-funded and complained they had patriotic-sounding names to hide their nefarious purposes; he encouraged extra scrutiny of these groups; Democrats in the Senate then pushed the IRS to target the kinds of groups the president warned about; the IRS did so. Blaming conservatives for applying to participate in the nonprofit sector and thus forcing the IRS to harass and silence them is just as nonsensical as it sounds. But what about the underlying point: were those poor IRS officials flooded with conservative applicants? No, as the Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta points out:

“[W]e saw a big increase in these kind of applications, many of which indicated that they were going to be involved in advocacy work,” Lerner said.

But Todd Young, a Republican congressman from Indiana, pointed out at Friday’s House Ways and Means Committee hearing with former acting IRS commissioner Steve Miller and Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George that this was not the case, according to the very data the IRS provided to the Treasury IG’s office.

There were, he noted, actually fewer applications for tax-exempt status by groups seeking to be recognized as social-welfare organizations that year than the previous one, according to this IRS data. The real surge in applications did not come until 2012 — the year the IRS stopped the practice of treating the Tea Party class of groups differently from others.

Franke-Ruta provides the numbers, and they debunk a poor excuse that never should have been trotted out in the first place. Franke-Ruta also points out that on Wednesday, the Chronicle of Philanthropy was already on the case. Indeed they were. An article by Doug Donovan notes that not only does the narrative about a flood of 501(c)4 applicants fall apart when looking at the data, but an even larger portion of the IRS’s justification for its actions is completely undone by the numbers as well:

Mr. Miller wrote in USA Today on Monday that the IRS began to centralize those applications in 2010 because the division that supervises tax-exempt organizations observed a sharp increase in the number of applications from groups “potentially engaged in political campaign intervention” that were seeking either 501(c)(4) status or designation as a 501(c)(3) charity. He then cites the increase between 2010 and 2012.

The audit shows that 501(c)(3) applications also declined in both 2010 and 2011 from the previous years.

Now, to be fair to liberal commentators, they often unquestioningly accept the false narratives about conservatives pushed by this White House, and so they naturally heard all the fuss Obama was making about foreign-funded fake nonprofits and just assumed he wasn’t making it all up. It turns out he was making it up. But for liberals it was too good to check.

So liberals carried the corrupt IRS’s water. But at least most of those writers didn’t push that narrative explicitly as a defense of the IRS’s actions. Most of the time it was simply qualifying it, putting it in context. So it’s surprising, I suppose, to read Norm Ornstein’s take on the scandal–because he’s happy to defend the IRS.

In a piece titled, you guessed it, “In Defense of the IRS,” Ornstein writes as though he hasn’t read a newspaper or watched the news in a week. We now know, of course, that the IRS targeted conservative groups. That fact has been clearly established. But Ornstein says there’s no way the IRS targeted conservative groups because if they did they would have gone after large groups like American Crossroads. Since they didn’t go after American Crossroads, Ornstein claims, they couldn’t have been targeting conservative groups–even though documentation from the IRS demonstrates without a doubt that that is exactly what they were doing. Ornstein continues:

In the meantime, a slew of other organizations, encouraged by the example of American Crossroads, saw an opening and flooded the agency with applications, leaving staffers to find their own ways to cope– and they did so repeatedly in foolish and destructive ways.

Conservatives “flooded the agency,” so what else was a nebbish IRS bureaucrat to do besides send letters to applicants asking them what they pray about and how they feel about Planned Parenthood? Again, the excuse doesn’t hold even if the “flood” of applicants actually happened. But it appears the entire foundation of this corrupt campaign was false.

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It Takes More Than a Mega-Donor to Win the White House

Those hoping that the seemingly endless 2012 presidential campaign would lead to a shorter run-up to the 2016 contest are out of luck. As Politico reports, not only is there no shortage of aspirants for what will be two open nominations but the hopefuls are already making a beeline to major donors hoping to line up support for a race that may be four years away but seems to have already started. According to their story, a gaggle of ambitious Republican governors who attended the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas last month managed to take time from their busy schedules to meet with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in hope of winning his heart and the sort of financial support that could make them viable presidential candidates.

Among those lining up to see the philanthropist/mega donor were Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and John Kasich of Ohio. All three appear to be testing the presidential waters. The story also noted that Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, who both fell short in their 2012 runs, are also keeping close to their big donors in hopes of keeping their options open for another try.

It is true that a viable candidacy requires funding, and the ability to raise money — either from a host of small donors or a few big ones — is an essential skill for any would-be president. But anyone thinking that a nod from Adelson or Santorum’s backer Foster Friess or any of the Texas businessmen that backed Perry is tantamount to a key to the presidency wasn’t paying attention last year. Money gives a candidate a chance, and large donations like those that Newt Gingrich received from Adelson a year ago kept him in the race longer than he might otherwise have lasted. But the lesson of 2012 is that no single donor or even group of large donors or their super PACs can win elections by themselves. Which is why the attention given large contributors may be somewhat misleading.

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Those hoping that the seemingly endless 2012 presidential campaign would lead to a shorter run-up to the 2016 contest are out of luck. As Politico reports, not only is there no shortage of aspirants for what will be two open nominations but the hopefuls are already making a beeline to major donors hoping to line up support for a race that may be four years away but seems to have already started. According to their story, a gaggle of ambitious Republican governors who attended the Republican Governors Association meeting in Las Vegas last month managed to take time from their busy schedules to meet with casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in hope of winning his heart and the sort of financial support that could make them viable presidential candidates.

Among those lining up to see the philanthropist/mega donor were Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Bob McDonnell of Virginia and John Kasich of Ohio. All three appear to be testing the presidential waters. The story also noted that Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, who both fell short in their 2012 runs, are also keeping close to their big donors in hopes of keeping their options open for another try.

It is true that a viable candidacy requires funding, and the ability to raise money — either from a host of small donors or a few big ones — is an essential skill for any would-be president. But anyone thinking that a nod from Adelson or Santorum’s backer Foster Friess or any of the Texas businessmen that backed Perry is tantamount to a key to the presidency wasn’t paying attention last year. Money gives a candidate a chance, and large donations like those that Newt Gingrich received from Adelson a year ago kept him in the race longer than he might otherwise have lasted. But the lesson of 2012 is that no single donor or even group of large donors or their super PACs can win elections by themselves. Which is why the attention given large contributors may be somewhat misleading.

The best example of this was not Gingrich, a Republican veteran whose baggage and lack of discipline doomed his candidacy from the start. Rather, it was Jon Huntsman, whose father Jon Huntsman, Sr., was noted in the Politico piece as the mega donor behind his son’s campaign. The point here is that Huntsman had no shortage of money and was given fawning coverage throughout the mainstream media as well as puff pieces from conservative writers like George Will. But all the money and the media attention in the world could not convince Republican primary voters that a feckless moderate like Huntsman ought to be president.

Mitt Romney’s money gave him an advantage in the GOP race, but Politico’s explanation of his win — “a pro-Romney super PAC obliterated the field” — is misleading. Though he fell short in November against President Obama, he won the GOP nomination because he was the most viable candidate in the field, a factor that no amount of money given to either Gingrich or Santorum could overcome.

While all of the possible candidates on both sides of the aisle would do well to find themselves a friend like Adelson, one such person or even a few won’t elect a person who can’t attract the support of the voters. If you don’t believe me, just ask president-elect Gingrich or president-elect Santorum.

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2012 Debunked Campaign Finance Fallacies

Since the landmark Citizens United decision issued by the Supreme Court in 2010, liberals have been claiming that the ruling would more or less end democracy as we know it. Their fear-mongering on the issue was based on the assumption that freeing up the ability of individuals, groups and businesses to fund political speech would guarantee that money would decide all future elections. That conclusion was patent nonsense. Neither political party has an inherent advantage in raising money, since both have large affluent bases from which to draw funds. But even more important is the fact that while money is essential to giving a candidate a chance, it is by no means a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

These two facts were proved true again this past Tuesday. It is true that Mitt Romney’s defeat was a blow to the big Republican donors who contributed vast sums to help his cause. But as much as the New York Times was able to crow in an editorial published yesterday that the outcome was “A Landslide Loss for Big Money” by which they meant big Republican money, it can just as easily be represented as a win for the big liberal money raised by the Democrats. While the cacophony of competing claims made possible by the approximately $1 billion spent by both parties wasn’t the most edifying spectacle, it did give each ample opportunity to make their cases to the voters. There is nothing corrupt about the free flow of political speech, even in an election as nasty as the one that has just concluded. All that Citizens United did was to make it possible for the competitors’ voices to be heard. That is the essence of democracy and why calls for more efforts to restrict free speech via new, and undoubtedly unconstitutional, campaign finance laws (such as those advocated by the Times) should be ignored.

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Since the landmark Citizens United decision issued by the Supreme Court in 2010, liberals have been claiming that the ruling would more or less end democracy as we know it. Their fear-mongering on the issue was based on the assumption that freeing up the ability of individuals, groups and businesses to fund political speech would guarantee that money would decide all future elections. That conclusion was patent nonsense. Neither political party has an inherent advantage in raising money, since both have large affluent bases from which to draw funds. But even more important is the fact that while money is essential to giving a candidate a chance, it is by no means a decisive factor in determining the outcome.

These two facts were proved true again this past Tuesday. It is true that Mitt Romney’s defeat was a blow to the big Republican donors who contributed vast sums to help his cause. But as much as the New York Times was able to crow in an editorial published yesterday that the outcome was “A Landslide Loss for Big Money” by which they meant big Republican money, it can just as easily be represented as a win for the big liberal money raised by the Democrats. While the cacophony of competing claims made possible by the approximately $1 billion spent by both parties wasn’t the most edifying spectacle, it did give each ample opportunity to make their cases to the voters. There is nothing corrupt about the free flow of political speech, even in an election as nasty as the one that has just concluded. All that Citizens United did was to make it possible for the competitors’ voices to be heard. That is the essence of democracy and why calls for more efforts to restrict free speech via new, and undoubtedly unconstitutional, campaign finance laws (such as those advocated by the Times) should be ignored.

Liberals intent on demonizing conservative donors seem to forget that the president was able to raise hundreds of millions from their own cadre of rich backers. The Democrats raised money from Hollywood or those who seek to enrich themselves via “green” alternative energy companies, just as others did for Romney. Yet there is nothing wrong with these liberals or their labor union allies using the vast sums at their disposal to promote their ideas and favorite candidates any more than when conservatives do the same things.

Rather than draw the only logical conclusion from Obama’s win and to pipe down about the evils of money in politics, the ideologues at the Times are undeterred. Laws such as the disastrous McCain-Feingold legislation that was largely overturned by Citizens United, or any of its equally unsuccessful predecessors, only serve to strengthen the position of incumbents and to reassert the power of mainstream media outlets like the Times, whose right to political speech is protected by the First Amendment.

What all this money bought may not be pretty or even decorous but it is not corrupt. Nor should the government seek to restrain it in the hope of elevating our political life.

As the Times rightly asserted, a deluge of expensive campaign ads on television didn’t affect the race as much as effective get-out-the-vote efforts by Democrats. That was a point reinforced by the disastrously inefficient, yet no less expensive scheme of the Republicans to do the same thing. Perhaps in the future both sides ought to ponder whether television ads that enrich broadcast outlets and the political consultants who urge candidates to buy them, but sometimes provide little political payoff, are worth it. But to say that is not agree that they ought to be restricted or banned. This year proved what virtually every other election has always shown those who were willing to look honestly at the question. Though money is needed to create a viable campaign, it can’t buy the presidency.

What we had in 2012 was a bellyful of democracy. Some of us may not like what it bought us, but schemes to limit political speech won’t make the system any more fair or honest.

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Is Socialism a Swing State Issue?

One of the most incredible ads so far this election season was produced and paid for not by a candidate, Super PAC, or party, but instead by a private citizen. Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian-born businessman who made his fortune in online trading, has begun airing a 60-second ad that will be broadcast on major networks (CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg) in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and possibly Florida, he told the Washington Examiner. Petterffy, who has a net-worth of over $4.6 billion according to Forbes, intends to spend between $5-10 million on the ads.

Peterffy’s ad is powerful in its simplicity. He speaks directly to the camera and recounts the story of his childhood in socialist Hungary, using images of himself and the poverty-stricken European nation. Peterffy, a member of the Forbes 400 list and Forbes’s list of billionaires, describes the importance of hard work and the value of respecting success. Interspersed with messages about the dangers of socialism are recent photos of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s protests. While the ad never addresses Obama’s early supportive statements regarding OWS, Americans need to look no further than statements made during the last two debates to understand that the Obama White House values “fairness” over success. Peterffy concludes his ad by stating, “That is why I am voting Republican and putting this ad on television.”

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One of the most incredible ads so far this election season was produced and paid for not by a candidate, Super PAC, or party, but instead by a private citizen. Thomas Peterffy, a Hungarian-born businessman who made his fortune in online trading, has begun airing a 60-second ad that will be broadcast on major networks (CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg) in the swing states of Ohio, Wisconsin and possibly Florida, he told the Washington Examiner. Petterffy, who has a net-worth of over $4.6 billion according to Forbes, intends to spend between $5-10 million on the ads.

Peterffy’s ad is powerful in its simplicity. He speaks directly to the camera and recounts the story of his childhood in socialist Hungary, using images of himself and the poverty-stricken European nation. Peterffy, a member of the Forbes 400 list and Forbes’s list of billionaires, describes the importance of hard work and the value of respecting success. Interspersed with messages about the dangers of socialism are recent photos of the Occupy Wall Street movement’s protests. While the ad never addresses Obama’s early supportive statements regarding OWS, Americans need to look no further than statements made during the last two debates to understand that the Obama White House values “fairness” over success. Peterffy concludes his ad by stating, “That is why I am voting Republican and putting this ad on television.”

A quick glance at Peterffy’s FEC contributions doesn’t seem to indicate his status as a conservative version of George Soros. In May 2009 he donated $2,400 to Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Roger Pearson (D-CT) respectively. According to the Seattle PI, Peterffy doesn’t have a political affiliated listed according to a public records search. While the majority of his other donations are to Republican and right-wing causes, almost all until this past election cycle are for local candidates in Connecticut, Peterffy’s home state. This election, it seems, has sparked an interest in national politics that was previously unrealized.

Peterffy’s decision to spend the majority of his ad-buy in Ohio isn’t just about electoral politics. Three of the six largest Hungarian populations in the U.S. are found in the state, after New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In an election where such a large population comprises the vote of one of the most crucial swing states in the country, Peterffy’s ad could actually impact the presidential race. If nothing else, it gives voice to many in his generation who have seen the American Dream scorned through the Occupy protests and the class warfare rhetoric of the current administration.

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Soros Flip-Flops on Super PACs

After insisting that he wouldn’t violate his principles by contributing to super PACs, billionaire left-wing donor George Soros has reportedly caved, and gave over $1 million to Democrat-supporting groups:

Billionaire financier George Soros has given $1 million to the primary super PAC helping President Obama.

The funding is a boost to Priorities USA Action in the final weeks of the campaign.  …

Soros is also giving $500,000 each to two congressional super PACs, one aimed at protecting the Democratic majority in the Senate and the other dedicated to winning control in the House.

Soros and other Democratic donors are betraying their principles, though I’m sure they make excuses for their hypocrisy. For example, many Americans believe bribery is unethical and is rightfully illegal, but if they suddenly found themselves stuck in a country where bribery was a fact of life, they might grit their teeth and cave. I imagine that’s similar to the way people like Soros justify violating their principles on super PACs — they’re doing this because they feel it’s necessary to compete with Republicans, and maybe even comfort themselves with the thought that Obama will work to put an end to the practice in a second term. (Though that’s not to suggest that super PACs are akin to bribery, which is a common argument on the left. As I’ve written in the past, the Citizens United decision was a matter of free speech).

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After insisting that he wouldn’t violate his principles by contributing to super PACs, billionaire left-wing donor George Soros has reportedly caved, and gave over $1 million to Democrat-supporting groups:

Billionaire financier George Soros has given $1 million to the primary super PAC helping President Obama.

The funding is a boost to Priorities USA Action in the final weeks of the campaign.  …

Soros is also giving $500,000 each to two congressional super PACs, one aimed at protecting the Democratic majority in the Senate and the other dedicated to winning control in the House.

Soros and other Democratic donors are betraying their principles, though I’m sure they make excuses for their hypocrisy. For example, many Americans believe bribery is unethical and is rightfully illegal, but if they suddenly found themselves stuck in a country where bribery was a fact of life, they might grit their teeth and cave. I imagine that’s similar to the way people like Soros justify violating their principles on super PACs — they’re doing this because they feel it’s necessary to compete with Republicans, and maybe even comfort themselves with the thought that Obama will work to put an end to the practice in a second term. (Though that’s not to suggest that super PACs are akin to bribery, which is a common argument on the left. As I’ve written in the past, the Citizens United decision was a matter of free speech).

Still, there’s a difference between theoretically opposing a practice and actively advocating to put an end to it. For example, it would be absurd for an anti-corruption activist in Russia to engage in bribery while lecturing others against.

Soros and advocacy groups he’s financed, like Media Matters and Think Progress, have been out front in the fight against super PACs. It’s immensely hypocritical for Soros and these groups to decry the corruptive influence of unlimited money in politics when Soros is contributing to super PACs. Either you’re against the practice when everybody does it, or you’re not. Someone who actively advocates against Republican super PACs, but supports Democratic super PACs, is not honestly concerned about unlimited political spending — he’s a partisan, pure and simple. It will be interesting to see how this changes the discourse on super PACs on the left. Will Soros-supported groups continue to oppose Citizens United? Or will they stop treating it as a major concern?

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Focus on the Candidate, Not the Spending

After a week in which Mitt Romney allowed himself to become a mainstream media piñata, the Republican’s campaign is in the unenviable position of having to calm the frayed nerves of supporters who feel that a few days of bad polling numbers mean that all is lost. There is good reason for Republicans to be concerned about the way the race has gone since the conventions, but with most of the national polls still within the margin of error, the instinct to panic is, at best, premature. Nevertheless, it is likely that a New York Times article that noted that the Romney campaign is being “tightfisted” with its campaign treasury and allowing itself to be outspent in key states is bound to raise some alarms in the GOP.

But if anyone thinks the problem with the Romney campaign is that they are as cheap as the candidate supposedly is in his private life, they are missing the point about recent events. One can debate the wisdom of the campaign’s decision-making process about ad buys. But as the now infamous 47 percent video indicated, the trouble with the Romney campaign is Romney, not its pace of spending.

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After a week in which Mitt Romney allowed himself to become a mainstream media piñata, the Republican’s campaign is in the unenviable position of having to calm the frayed nerves of supporters who feel that a few days of bad polling numbers mean that all is lost. There is good reason for Republicans to be concerned about the way the race has gone since the conventions, but with most of the national polls still within the margin of error, the instinct to panic is, at best, premature. Nevertheless, it is likely that a New York Times article that noted that the Romney campaign is being “tightfisted” with its campaign treasury and allowing itself to be outspent in key states is bound to raise some alarms in the GOP.

But if anyone thinks the problem with the Romney campaign is that they are as cheap as the candidate supposedly is in his private life, they are missing the point about recent events. One can debate the wisdom of the campaign’s decision-making process about ad buys. But as the now infamous 47 percent video indicated, the trouble with the Romney campaign is Romney, not its pace of spending.

The Times article has the feel of a piece intended to feed the fears of Republican Chicken Littles who think Romney’s Boston headquarters is flushing their chances of winning down the drain. But while the response from the Romney camp to the effect that they have spent their money “smartly and efficiently” sounds sensible, the candidate’s supporters are bound to wonder whether waiting until later in the campaign to start spending all the money that has been raised is wise. It is difficult to know in advance when the crisis in an election campaign has come, but if there was ever a moment when it felt as if Romney’s hopes were hanging in the balance it is now. If his advisors think it’s too soon to start a massive effort to counter the negative messages being conveyed by the Democrats and the media, it may be too late to do any good when they think the time is right.

As I wrote yesterday, there is no reason for Republicans to give up just because the media is telling them to do so. Romney does have time to make up lost ground and there are still a host of issues concerning the economy and foreign policy on which he can score points against the president.

But the focus on advertisements tells us nothing about why Romney is still trailing the president or how he can change that.

It’s worth recalling that some of Romney’s opponents in the Republican primaries noted at the time that he wouldn’t be able to overwhelm President Obama with ad buys the way he did some of his GOP foes. That was true. But the conclusion to be drawn from this lesson is broader than that.

Journalists have covered the fundraising race between the two parties this year with almost as much interest as they did the contest for Republican convention delegates when the nomination was still in doubt. Money is the mother’s milk of politics. It is vital to running a credible campaign and its absence can doom an otherwise viable contender. But money alone never bought the presidency for any candidate. That is especially true when you consider the enormous sums both the president and the GOP standard-bearer have raised and which in practice almost cancel each other out.

It may be that it would be extremely helpful to the Republican effort for the campaign to invest heavily in ads in swing states right now. And if Obama’s lead starts to expand now, we may look back and accuse Romney’s advisors of making a critical mistake by saving their money for a subsequent offensive.

But Romney isn’t trailing in Ohio, Florida and Virginia — states he must win — because of Obama’s advertising or because too few GOP ads are being put on the air. He’s losing because of a widespread perception fed by his own gaffes, that the candidate is not presenting a viable alternative to the president. That may be unfair, but it is a perception that is based on his failure to close the deal with voters at a time when the country is in the sort of economic distress that might otherwise cause an incumbent to lose.

The obsession with the impact of money on the race has been a convenient theme for Democrats who like to pretend that the Republicans are trying to buy the election. That probably won’t change even if, as was the case in 2008, the Democrats wind up outspending the GOP this year. But it would be foolish for Republicans to buy into this idea by complaining loudly about the Romney camp’s spending. More ads may well help him, but no ad will save his candidacy if he continues to drift and allow his opponents to define him by his gaffes.

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The Campaign to Demonize Adelson

As I wrote earlier this week, given the depth of his political involvement on behalf of Republican candidates it’s hardly surprising to find that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is in the crosshairs of the liberal media these days. Adelson’s billions are derived from vastly profitable — and entirely legal — gambling enterprises in Las Vegas and Macao, China but there is an ongoing effort to depict him as a shady character with whom politicians should not associate. The investigation about possible bribery of Chinese officials, which the New York Times spread over their front page on Tuesday, is a serious matter but the allegation remains more a matter of assumptions of misbehavior than any proof. But that has not stopped Democratic groups from trying to brand Adelson as toxic or even repeating other outrageous and palpably false charges about him for which some have been forced to apologize. Now the Times has escalated the campaign with an editorial calling on Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to distance themselves from Adelson and, no doubt, not take any of his campaign contributions.

The hypocrisy of the left’s assault on Adelson is so obvious it barely needs to be mentioned. Adelson is not nearly as shady a character as left-wing financier George Soros, whose activities have included international currency manipulation that sent some countries over the edge in the past. No one questioned whether it was wise for John Kerry to accept Soros’s money in 2004 as part of the billionaire’s crusade to defeat George W. Bush. Nor did anyone question his contributions to the Democrats’ successful get out the vote campaign in 2008. The Times did not speculate then whether Soros’s real agenda involved his business interests, as they do now about Adelson. Instead, they took him at his word that his commitment was ideological. The only real difference between the two is that Soros backs left-wing politicians and causes while Adelson has dedicated his financial resources to supporting Israel and conservatives.

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As I wrote earlier this week, given the depth of his political involvement on behalf of Republican candidates it’s hardly surprising to find that casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is in the crosshairs of the liberal media these days. Adelson’s billions are derived from vastly profitable — and entirely legal — gambling enterprises in Las Vegas and Macao, China but there is an ongoing effort to depict him as a shady character with whom politicians should not associate. The investigation about possible bribery of Chinese officials, which the New York Times spread over their front page on Tuesday, is a serious matter but the allegation remains more a matter of assumptions of misbehavior than any proof. But that has not stopped Democratic groups from trying to brand Adelson as toxic or even repeating other outrageous and palpably false charges about him for which some have been forced to apologize. Now the Times has escalated the campaign with an editorial calling on Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to distance themselves from Adelson and, no doubt, not take any of his campaign contributions.

The hypocrisy of the left’s assault on Adelson is so obvious it barely needs to be mentioned. Adelson is not nearly as shady a character as left-wing financier George Soros, whose activities have included international currency manipulation that sent some countries over the edge in the past. No one questioned whether it was wise for John Kerry to accept Soros’s money in 2004 as part of the billionaire’s crusade to defeat George W. Bush. Nor did anyone question his contributions to the Democrats’ successful get out the vote campaign in 2008. The Times did not speculate then whether Soros’s real agenda involved his business interests, as they do now about Adelson. Instead, they took him at his word that his commitment was ideological. The only real difference between the two is that Soros backs left-wing politicians and causes while Adelson has dedicated his financial resources to supporting Israel and conservatives.

As proof of its allegation that Adelson is up to no good, the Times editorial regurgitates the same story that was the only truly damning aspect of their several-thousand-word investigative feature. Ten years ago, Adelson called then House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and persuaded him to shelve a largely meaningless Congressional resolution that opposed China’s hosting the 2008 Olympics because of their dreadful human rights record.

The Delay story is interesting because it is supposed to depict how Adelson uses his power to affect policy but it does nothing of the kind. Adelson and Delay were in the wrong here but even if the resolution had passed, it would have changed nothing about the Olympics or U.S.-China relations. Treating Adelson as if he’s the sole reason for the decision to put aside our concerns about Chinese human rights abuses and concentrate on doing business there gives him too much credit. That’s a political trend that predated the phone call to DeLay and for which both parties and the entire American business community is to blame. As the recent story about the way Romney dismissed Adelson’s requests that he promise to pardon convicted spy Jonathan Pollard or immediately move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem demonstrate, all his money buys him is access, not results.

The irony here is that unlike many large political contributors it’s clear that Adelson is not doing this to advance his personal interests but the ideas and people he supports. Israel’s security has been Adelson’s obsession and it has led him to not just give money to opponents of President Obama but to a raft of important Jewish and Israeli charitable causes. Indeed, if he was not an opponent of Obama and his policies toward Israel, there’s little doubt that the Times would have no interest in his activities and would merely refer to him as a philanthropist.

The goal of liberals in painting Adelson as a villain is to gain a tactical advantage in the fall election since his money is helping the Republicans. But their case against him rests more on assumptions about gambling and the corrupt business culture of China than on proof of anything he has done. Adelson’s legal campaign contributions are no more sinister than those of rich liberals who line up to pay for the right to hobnob with President Obama at parties in Hollywood and New York.

Adelson may be an easy target but the campaign to demonize him using language about politicians being “in thrall” to him has an unpleasant odor of prejudice. Instead of Romney worrying about associating with Adelson, the Times and the Obama campaign need to be careful about the way they are playing into traditional stereotypes about Jews and money and libels about the “Israel Lobby.”

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McConnell Defends Record Consistency

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a defiant message for liberal critics who’ve been blasting his stance on political spending and free speech: “They can [attack me] as long as they want to,” the senator told me in an interview this morning. “It actually makes my day.”

Since McConnell’s impassioned defense of the First Amendment at the American Enterprise Institute last Friday, liberal pundits and reporters have jumped on supposed inconsistencies in his record, dredged up 25-year-old statements, and accused him of selling out to various corporate interests.

One popular argument that’s made the rounds–from Norm Ornstein’s columns to Democratic Rep. Van Hollen’s talking points–is that McConnell was in favor of donor disclosure before he was against it. McConnell’s critics cite his 2010 interview with NBC’s Tim Russert, in which the senator said the following:

“We need to have real disclosure. And so what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt business associations and trial lawyers so that you include the major political players in America. Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a defiant message for liberal critics who’ve been blasting his stance on political spending and free speech: “They can [attack me] as long as they want to,” the senator told me in an interview this morning. “It actually makes my day.”

Since McConnell’s impassioned defense of the First Amendment at the American Enterprise Institute last Friday, liberal pundits and reporters have jumped on supposed inconsistencies in his record, dredged up 25-year-old statements, and accused him of selling out to various corporate interests.

One popular argument that’s made the rounds–from Norm Ornstein’s columns to Democratic Rep. Van Hollen’s talking points–is that McConnell was in favor of donor disclosure before he was against it. McConnell’s critics cite his 2010 interview with NBC’s Tim Russert, in which the senator said the following:

“We need to have real disclosure. And so what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt business associations and trial lawyers so that you include the major political players in America. Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?”

McConnell said the quote has been distorted by his critics, and his actual point was that the Democrat-supported campaign finance bill unfairly targeted Republican donors.

“I didn’t say I was in favor of [disclosure in that category]. I said if you’re going to go down that path, you can’t exempt everybody who favors Democrats and only cover those who tend to favor Republicans,” he told me. “That’s a misconstruction, a deliberate attempt to cloud what I was saying.”

McConnell added that it’s not necessarily disclosure that Democrats are seeking, but rules that would infringe on Republican supporters while carving out exceptions for Democratic allies.

“The so-called DISCLOSE Act conveniently carves out people most likely to be aligned with the left and only leaves covered those most likely to be aligned with the right,” he said. “Leading you to conclude, I think, that they really want to intimidate one side and leave the other side free to speak.”

And you can tell how critical this fight is to both sides by the number of crossbows aimed at McConnell this week. The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus dug back to 1987 — two years into McConnell’s first Senate term and the same year a new cartoon called The Simpsons fist appeared on the Tracy Ullman show — to uncover a quote from McConnell supporting limits on independent expenditures:

As it happens, 25 years ago this week a senator from Kentucky well versed in campaign-finance issues proposed a constitutional amendment to allow limits on independent expenditures.

“These are constitutional problems,” the senator said, “demanding constitutional answers.”

That was Republican Mitch McConnell, arch foe of campaign-finance regulation — or, as he would put it, staunch defender of the First Amendment.

The senator brushes this off as a quarter-century-old mistake, and maintains that his record been consistent for decades.

“I confess I made an error, but I corrected it in pretty short order, within six months of that mistake,” said McConnell. “But I think 25 years of being entirely consistent probably would rank me better than a lot of people I know in this line of work.”

McConnell also didn’t seem surprised by the pains some critics are going through to raise questions about his motives.

“All the Post was left with was trying to destroy my credibility, and it’s noteworthy that they had to go back a quarter of a century to find anything that’s been remotely inconsistent on this issue,” he said.

These political boxing matches obviously aren’t new for McConnell, and in a way, he seems to relish them.

“Look, I’ve been called Darth Vader. I’ve got a whole wall in my office full of cartoons attacking me on this issue,” he told me. “They’d love to shut me up, but I’m more used to their criticism than regular American citizens.”

McConnell said it’s these attacks on private American citizens that has driven him to fight against the DISCLOSE Act and similar legislation.

“They try to be involved in the political process and all of sudden they find themselves being chased by the IRS,” he said. “Or what happened in the case of this one fellow who contributed to Mitt Romney’s super PAC, having his divorce records gone through by somebody from the Obama campaign.”

“I mean, normal citizens are not used to this kind of behavior,” McConnell added. “I kind of have grown accustomed to it. I don’t particularly like it, but that’s the price of being in my line of work.”

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McCain’s Cheap Shot at Adelson

It is perhaps to be expected that Sen. John McCain would still be whining about the way the Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision effectively neutered the campaign finance law he co-authored with Wisconsin liberal Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain is still claiming the decision made politics more corrupt, but he is deaf, dumb and blind about the way his legislation restricted free speech, added further complications to an already byzantine system and drove campaign cash further underground. But while there is nothing remarkable about McCain beating his favorite dead horse, his latest comments cross the line between fair comment and slander.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour program, McCain didn’t just assert that Citizens United is aiding corruption but that the contributions made by Mitt Romney’s leading donor may be the product of “foreign” — and therefore by definition illegal — money. The reference to billionaire Sheldon Adelson — whose billions come in part from casinos in Macao — was a cheap shot, especially as it came directly after McCain predicted  there would be “scandals” that would come out of Citizens United. McCain knows very well there is nothing illegal or underhanded about Adelson’s money or his willingness to spend it to promote the causes and candidates he supports. The scandal here isn’t the fact that a billionaire is making money overseas and spending it at home on political speech; it is the willingness of the political class to restrict the right of Americans to have a voice in the political system.

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It is perhaps to be expected that Sen. John McCain would still be whining about the way the Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision effectively neutered the campaign finance law he co-authored with Wisconsin liberal Democrat Russ Feingold. McCain is still claiming the decision made politics more corrupt, but he is deaf, dumb and blind about the way his legislation restricted free speech, added further complications to an already byzantine system and drove campaign cash further underground. But while there is nothing remarkable about McCain beating his favorite dead horse, his latest comments cross the line between fair comment and slander.

In an interview with the PBS Newshour program, McCain didn’t just assert that Citizens United is aiding corruption but that the contributions made by Mitt Romney’s leading donor may be the product of “foreign” — and therefore by definition illegal — money. The reference to billionaire Sheldon Adelson — whose billions come in part from casinos in Macao — was a cheap shot, especially as it came directly after McCain predicted  there would be “scandals” that would come out of Citizens United. McCain knows very well there is nothing illegal or underhanded about Adelson’s money or his willingness to spend it to promote the causes and candidates he supports. The scandal here isn’t the fact that a billionaire is making money overseas and spending it at home on political speech; it is the willingness of the political class to restrict the right of Americans to have a voice in the political system.

McCain clearly believes all political donations are inherently a form of corruption, a view he has hewed to since his involvement in the Keating Five Savings and Loan Scandal almost ended his political career. Since then, he has adopted a self-righteous posture on the issue and sought to impose severe restrictions on the ability of citizens to make contributions. But far from helping to clean up politics, McCain-Feingold only made things worse. It made it harder for candidates and political parties to raise money and opened the way for other entities to be created to fill the void.

Because money cannot be taken out of politics any more than it can be removed from the banking system, the growing volume of campaign finance laws has only added layers that made the system less accountable. Moreover, the danger of scandal does not come so much from the wealthy willing to spend to advance the ideas they cherish but from politicians who sell their votes to gain popularity.

Even more to the point, bills like McCain-Feingold give undue influence to the mainstream media as it made them the only venues for political discussion that could not be limited by the government. And by making it harder to raise money, McCain-Feingold was in effect an incumbent protection program that helped create an informal system of congressional tenure.

As for Adelson, the notion that any of his money comes from laundered accounts belonging to foreign players is absurd. Adelson’s conservative and pro-Israel views are no secret, and it is not likely that anyone in China is using him to advance those causes. That makes McCain’s smear a cheap shot that ought to be incompatible with the high-minded reformist stances the Arizona senator believes he embodies.

McCain is entitled to spout off about Citizens United and he is also within his rights in expressing contempt for the gaming industry that has made Adelson a billionaire. But he is way out of line when he wrongly smears the wealthy donor as a foreign agent or an emissary of corruption. He owes Adelson an apology.

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Romney Erasing Obama’s Cash Advantage

One of the biggest problems for the Republicans this year has been the perceived huge fundraising edge President Obama is supposed to enjoy. Though Democratic predictions that forecast the president’s re-election campaign raising a billion dollars may have been a vain boast, there’s little question the record-breaking amounts Obama raised in 2008 will be exceeded in 2012 with all the advantages of incumbency now on his side. By contrast, all of the president’s potential Republican opponents raised but piddling amounts when compared to the president’s efforts. But that was bound to change once the Republican nomination was decided. The fundraising reports from April — the month Mitt Romney wrapped up the GOP contest–proves this.

Romney’s campaign is set to announce today that along with the Republican National Committee, the GOP effort raised $40.1 million in April. That’s not too far below the $43.6 million President Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee took in for the same month. This reflects not only a clear surge in donations for Romney but also an evening up of the imbalance in campaign cash that had been assumed to be the case this year. And with independent groups on both sides of the aisle free to spend on the campaign, this should make not only for a wild and woolly six months until November but a contest in which both sides will have ample resources to make their case to the people.

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One of the biggest problems for the Republicans this year has been the perceived huge fundraising edge President Obama is supposed to enjoy. Though Democratic predictions that forecast the president’s re-election campaign raising a billion dollars may have been a vain boast, there’s little question the record-breaking amounts Obama raised in 2008 will be exceeded in 2012 with all the advantages of incumbency now on his side. By contrast, all of the president’s potential Republican opponents raised but piddling amounts when compared to the president’s efforts. But that was bound to change once the Republican nomination was decided. The fundraising reports from April — the month Mitt Romney wrapped up the GOP contest–proves this.

Romney’s campaign is set to announce today that along with the Republican National Committee, the GOP effort raised $40.1 million in April. That’s not too far below the $43.6 million President Obama’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee took in for the same month. This reflects not only a clear surge in donations for Romney but also an evening up of the imbalance in campaign cash that had been assumed to be the case this year. And with independent groups on both sides of the aisle free to spend on the campaign, this should make not only for a wild and woolly six months until November but a contest in which both sides will have ample resources to make their case to the people.

The surge will eliminate a situation where a challenger to an incumbent runs out of cash after a hard-fought nomination fight. Romney may have outspent his GOP foes heavily but the increase in donations — 95 percent of which are for less than $250 — leaves him enough money to keep campaigning and spending freely until the nominating conventions at the end of the summer. The reported $61.4 million in his coffers at the end of April may not be as much as the president has in his pocket but is enough to remain competitive.

Romney’s team is hoping to raise as much as $800 million by the end of the year, while the president’s campaign has now lowered expectations to a mere $750 million.

Though those who wrongly see campaign donations as a blight on the system consider these totals excessive, all this means is that both sides in the contest will be able to get their message out and organize their bases. It may be hard to avoid both Romney and Obama while watching television or surfing the Internet in the coming months, but these efforts are not undermining democracy, they are enabling it.

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Obama’s Super PAC Problems

President Obama has a huge lead on Mitt Romney when it comes to campaign fundraising, but that margin shrinks significantly when Super PACs are added into the pictures. Pro-Romney Super PACs have been raising cash steadily, but the pro-Obama Priorities USA group has had trouble bringing in donors, Bloomberg reports:

Through March, only 12 of Obama’s 532 top fundraisers had donated to Priorities USA Action, a super political action committee created to support his re-election. Priorities has only raised about $9 million compared to a combined $80 million brought in by the two main super-PACs dedicated to defeating Obama: American Crossroads, formed by Karl Rove, and Restore Our Future, a group backing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The leaders of Priorities have asked former President Bill Clinton to tap the pool of donors who helped fund his campaign and Hillary Clinton’s White House run. Yet Priorities lacks on its donor list most of the core group of Chicagoans who backed Obama’s presidential ambitions four years ago.

One government professor quoted in the story speculated that Democrats are wary about giving money to Priorities USA because they feel that negative advertising is unseemly. That’s absurd. Democrats are just as ruthless when it comes to negative ads as Republicans are. But there are other political reasons these Democrats might be hesitant about donating to Super PACs. Liberals almost universally condemn the Citizens United ruling. People give to politicians in part because it makes them feel good, like they’re behind a worthy cause. But many liberals would probably feel like hypocrites – like they’re betraying their ideals – if they give through a fundraising channel they’ve claimed is corrupting politics.

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President Obama has a huge lead on Mitt Romney when it comes to campaign fundraising, but that margin shrinks significantly when Super PACs are added into the pictures. Pro-Romney Super PACs have been raising cash steadily, but the pro-Obama Priorities USA group has had trouble bringing in donors, Bloomberg reports:

Through March, only 12 of Obama’s 532 top fundraisers had donated to Priorities USA Action, a super political action committee created to support his re-election. Priorities has only raised about $9 million compared to a combined $80 million brought in by the two main super-PACs dedicated to defeating Obama: American Crossroads, formed by Karl Rove, and Restore Our Future, a group backing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The leaders of Priorities have asked former President Bill Clinton to tap the pool of donors who helped fund his campaign and Hillary Clinton’s White House run. Yet Priorities lacks on its donor list most of the core group of Chicagoans who backed Obama’s presidential ambitions four years ago.

One government professor quoted in the story speculated that Democrats are wary about giving money to Priorities USA because they feel that negative advertising is unseemly. That’s absurd. Democrats are just as ruthless when it comes to negative ads as Republicans are. But there are other political reasons these Democrats might be hesitant about donating to Super PACs. Liberals almost universally condemn the Citizens United ruling. People give to politicians in part because it makes them feel good, like they’re behind a worthy cause. But many liberals would probably feel like hypocrites – like they’re betraying their ideals – if they give through a fundraising channel they’ve claimed is corrupting politics.

Some may also be nervously eyeing the attacks the Obama campaign has launched against top pro-Romney donors. Kimberly Strassel reports that the campaign is targeting these donors on its website, criticizing their businesses and work histories:

Save Mr. Obama, who acknowledges no rules. This past week, one of his campaign websites posted an item entitled “Behind the curtain: A brief history of Romney’s donors.” In the post, the Obama campaign named and shamed eight private citizens who had donated to his opponent. Describing the givers as all having “less-than-reputable records,” the post went on to make the extraordinary accusations that “quite a few” have also been “on the wrong side of the law” and profiting at “the expense of so many Americans.”

These are people like Paul Schorr and Sam and Jeffrey Fox, investors who the site outed for the crime of having “outsourced” jobs. T. Martin Fiorentino is scored for his work for a firm that forecloses on homes. Louis Bacon (a hedge-fund manager), Kent Burton (a “lobbyist”) and Thomas O’Malley (an energy CEO) stand accused of profiting from oil. Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of a home-products firm, is slimed as a “bitter foe of the gay rights movement.”

These are wealthy individuals, to be sure, but private citizens nonetheless. Not one holds elected office. Not one is a criminal. Not one has the barest fraction of the position or the power of the U.S. leader who is publicly assaulting them.

Donors to political campaigns and Super PACs are required to disclose for a reason. Journalists, watchdog groups, and opposing campaigns are certainly within their rights to report on conflicts of interest, ethics issues, or the backgrounds of these donors. But the Obama campaign goes too far with this. Claiming someone is “less-than-reputable” or “on the wrong side of the law” when he has committed no crime – outside of the offense of giving large sums of money to a political opponent – is not appropriate behavior by a political campaign. If Obama is setting this precedent, it’s no wonder Democrats are reluctant to cut large checks to his supporting Super PAC.

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How Much Has Romney Outspent Santorum?

Rick Santorum played up his victories last night by pointing out that Mitt Romney has significantly outspent him throughout the race. “People have said, you know, you’re being outspent, and everybody’s talking about all the math and all the things – that this race is inevitable,” Santorum told his supporters. “Well for somebody who thinks this race is inevitable, [Romney’s] spent a whole lot of money against me for being inevitable.”

This is an attack line that Santorum’s likely to hammer in repeatedly in the run-up to the Illinois primary, especially since Romney and his allies are already shelling out enough money to flood the Illinois air waves with ads for the next week. Santorum, who has been trailing significantly in the fundraising department, has been blasting out emails asking for contributions so it can keep up with Romney today.

But while it’s true that Romney has outspent Santorum by a 10-1 margin, BuzzFeed reports that the disparity shrinks when you consider spending-per-delegate:

Romney is, however, getting his money’s worth: Measured by spending-per-delegate, the measure that matters, he’s running a more efficient campaign than one of his Republican rivals, Ron Paul, and a campaign that’s roughly equivalent to Newt Gingrich’s. Santorum, meanwhile, is running a more efficient campaign, but not by the order of magnitude the raw numbers suggest. Romney’s campaign has only spent about twice as much, per delegate, than Santorum; that figure increases to about three times as much if you include the SuperPACS — but nothing like the ten-to-one margin that emerges from the overall spending comparison.

There are also other gains that are more difficult to measure, i.e. the fact that some the primaries carry more weight than others regardless of the number of delegates they have. Romney has picked up more of the states that are considered “must-wins” than Santorum has, and hence those victories are more valuable.

Rick Santorum played up his victories last night by pointing out that Mitt Romney has significantly outspent him throughout the race. “People have said, you know, you’re being outspent, and everybody’s talking about all the math and all the things – that this race is inevitable,” Santorum told his supporters. “Well for somebody who thinks this race is inevitable, [Romney’s] spent a whole lot of money against me for being inevitable.”

This is an attack line that Santorum’s likely to hammer in repeatedly in the run-up to the Illinois primary, especially since Romney and his allies are already shelling out enough money to flood the Illinois air waves with ads for the next week. Santorum, who has been trailing significantly in the fundraising department, has been blasting out emails asking for contributions so it can keep up with Romney today.

But while it’s true that Romney has outspent Santorum by a 10-1 margin, BuzzFeed reports that the disparity shrinks when you consider spending-per-delegate:

Romney is, however, getting his money’s worth: Measured by spending-per-delegate, the measure that matters, he’s running a more efficient campaign than one of his Republican rivals, Ron Paul, and a campaign that’s roughly equivalent to Newt Gingrich’s. Santorum, meanwhile, is running a more efficient campaign, but not by the order of magnitude the raw numbers suggest. Romney’s campaign has only spent about twice as much, per delegate, than Santorum; that figure increases to about three times as much if you include the SuperPACS — but nothing like the ten-to-one margin that emerges from the overall spending comparison.

There are also other gains that are more difficult to measure, i.e. the fact that some the primaries carry more weight than others regardless of the number of delegates they have. Romney has picked up more of the states that are considered “must-wins” than Santorum has, and hence those victories are more valuable.

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How Big is Romney’s Money Advantage?

A few minutes ago, CNN showed a graphic of how much the two leading contenders spent on television ads in Michigan. A rough breakdown shows that Mitt Romney spent $3.1 million to $2.1 million for Rick Santorum. A 3-2 edge is a clear advantage for Romney but nowhere near the big edge he had in Florida where he literally drowned Newt Gingrich in negative broadcast advertising. Of course, these figures don’t include the funds available for organizational needs or turnout, but it demonstrates that for all of the talk of Romney’s overwhelming advantage in fundraising, Santorum has demonstrated the capacity to raise enough money to compete.

This means we shouldn’t listen too much to Santorum’s complaints about Romney buying the election if he loses. At the same time, the assumption that Romney has the resources to overwhelm his opponents if the race proves to be a long, drawn-out slugfest may also be incorrect.

A few minutes ago, CNN showed a graphic of how much the two leading contenders spent on television ads in Michigan. A rough breakdown shows that Mitt Romney spent $3.1 million to $2.1 million for Rick Santorum. A 3-2 edge is a clear advantage for Romney but nowhere near the big edge he had in Florida where he literally drowned Newt Gingrich in negative broadcast advertising. Of course, these figures don’t include the funds available for organizational needs or turnout, but it demonstrates that for all of the talk of Romney’s overwhelming advantage in fundraising, Santorum has demonstrated the capacity to raise enough money to compete.

This means we shouldn’t listen too much to Santorum’s complaints about Romney buying the election if he loses. At the same time, the assumption that Romney has the resources to overwhelm his opponents if the race proves to be a long, drawn-out slugfest may also be incorrect.

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Caddell Isn’t Waiting for Election Day

Pat Caddell is one mad Democrat:

Veteran Democratic operative Pat Caddell is unloading on the White House, saying he’s had enough with the president whose “hypocrisy” on campaign finance “is just mind-blowing.” …

“My problem with Obama started the day he blew up public financing of presidential campaigns,” Caddell said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “He’s the man whose done the most to destroy whatever integrity there was in campaign financing.”

He’s none too enamored with the Chamber of Commerce gambit, either:

The administration’s attacks, Caddell said, on groups like the Chamber of Commerce and donors like the conservative Koch brothers reek of McCarthyism. “I was the youngest person on Richard Nixon’s enemies list. I take this stuff seriously. What they’re doing is Nixonian – it’s McCarthyite,” he said.

Caddell, who has worked for a number of presidential campaigns, including Joe Biden’s in 1988, said making outside money an election issue is a risky strategy for the Democrats. “You’re 21 days out from an election and this is what you’ve got? That’s it? Nothing about jobs or the economy?”

Yeah, that’s all they’ve got. Caddell’s assessment of the Obama staff is accurate as far as it goes:

These are naive idiots who’ve come out of academia and have never done anything real in their lives, and they are actually in power,” he said. “These are the people we never let in the room when we had serious business to do. Now they’re running the country.”

Actually, the biggest problem is not the staff. The one who came out of academia and who had not done much that was “real” (other than write books about himself and get elected) before coming to the White House is Obama. That’s who has been leading the McCarthy-like attacks. That’s who’s got nothing to offer on the economy and jobs. Granted, Obama is surrounded by political hacks who lack real-world experience, but he put them there, and he’s shown himself to be sorely lacking in know-how and judgment when it comes to everything from the Middle East to “shovel-ready” jobs.

The Democrats’ finger-pointing and recriminations are only getting started. (Reminds me of the McCain campaign, which started blaming Sarah Palin before the election.) There will be plenty of blame to go around. But ultimately, Obama is head of his party as well as president. The upcoming electoral debacle will be his.

Pat Caddell is one mad Democrat:

Veteran Democratic operative Pat Caddell is unloading on the White House, saying he’s had enough with the president whose “hypocrisy” on campaign finance “is just mind-blowing.” …

“My problem with Obama started the day he blew up public financing of presidential campaigns,” Caddell said in an interview with The Daily Caller. “He’s the man whose done the most to destroy whatever integrity there was in campaign financing.”

He’s none too enamored with the Chamber of Commerce gambit, either:

The administration’s attacks, Caddell said, on groups like the Chamber of Commerce and donors like the conservative Koch brothers reek of McCarthyism. “I was the youngest person on Richard Nixon’s enemies list. I take this stuff seriously. What they’re doing is Nixonian – it’s McCarthyite,” he said.

Caddell, who has worked for a number of presidential campaigns, including Joe Biden’s in 1988, said making outside money an election issue is a risky strategy for the Democrats. “You’re 21 days out from an election and this is what you’ve got? That’s it? Nothing about jobs or the economy?”

Yeah, that’s all they’ve got. Caddell’s assessment of the Obama staff is accurate as far as it goes:

These are naive idiots who’ve come out of academia and have never done anything real in their lives, and they are actually in power,” he said. “These are the people we never let in the room when we had serious business to do. Now they’re running the country.”

Actually, the biggest problem is not the staff. The one who came out of academia and who had not done much that was “real” (other than write books about himself and get elected) before coming to the White House is Obama. That’s who has been leading the McCarthy-like attacks. That’s who’s got nothing to offer on the economy and jobs. Granted, Obama is surrounded by political hacks who lack real-world experience, but he put them there, and he’s shown himself to be sorely lacking in know-how and judgment when it comes to everything from the Middle East to “shovel-ready” jobs.

The Democrats’ finger-pointing and recriminations are only getting started. (Reminds me of the McCain campaign, which started blaming Sarah Palin before the election.) There will be plenty of blame to go around. But ultimately, Obama is head of his party as well as president. The upcoming electoral debacle will be his.

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