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Actually, Americans do care about corporate campaign cash

By Katrina vanden Heuvel

In Sunday's Post, former congressman and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Martin Frost said that corporate campaign money is "something the average voter couldn't care less about" and that Congress should "leave campaign finance reform to the wine-and-cheese crowd."

That's an obscene and false statement. It's exactly the "wine-and-cheese crowd" that the American people are concerned about -- wealthy Washington special interests that get to buy access and influence with politicians, drowning out the voice of everyday Americans. In fact, post-election polling from Democracy Corps showed that voters are just as angry with elected officials in Washington working for the elites and not regular people as they are with perceived issues of "big spending and liberal policies."

Election Night polling commissioned by Public Campaign Action Fund and Common Cause found that three in four voters believe that the flood of money spent this cycle poses a "real threat" to our elections and Congress and that 74 percent want Congress to act this year to reduce the influence of special interest cash. That includes broad support across all parties, including Tea Party Republicans. And a September Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows that, when given a number of options, reducing the influence of special interests was -- by a huge margin -- the most desirable outcome of the election, according to those polled. It seems that "the average voter" does care after all.

The American people see their democracy drowning in anonymous donors, super PACs, and record-breaking candidate fundraising. Our elected officials spend so much time focused on raising money that they have little time left to do their actual job of legislating. And when these campaign contributions lead to special tax breaks, earmarks, and watered down legislation, it's everyday people that suffer.

We need to put the control of our elections back in the hands of voters. Congress should piece together whatever parts of the DISCLOSE Act that can pass and then go even further by passing the Fair Elections Now Act. That's something that'll really get the "wine-and-cheese crowd" talking.

By Katrina vanden Heuvel  | November 8, 2010; 1:26 PM ET
Categories:  vanden Heuvel  | Tags:  vanden Heuvel  
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Comments

Really great article on how money is corrupting govt.
http://www.truth-out.org/bill-moyers-money-fights-hard-and-it-fights-dirty64766

Posted by: cmsatown | November 8, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Public Financing makes elections anything but fair. It's bad enough that my money is stolen from me in the form of taxes to pay for Republican and Democrat national conventions and campaigns.

So, in a public finance system I would be forced to pay for political speech I do not agree with. I would also only get to hear the speech the the government wanted me to hear.

We need to eliminate ALL public financing so that we can have other voices heard. Voices such as the Libertarian Party that supports repeal of all public financing and all laws that prevent ballot access of third parties. The Libertarian party all pays for its own conventions and campaigns without a single cent of tax payer funds.

Posted by: BradG | November 8, 2010 2:10 PM | Report abuse

the federal deficit has increased from $300 Billion $300,000,000,000.00
to $1.7 Trillion $1,700,000,000,000.00
Under
Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama....

you media lapdogs do a disservice to the american public.

Posted by: simonsays1 | November 8, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

a "threat to our elections" implies that the money is being used to buy the election, i.e. given to voters in exchange for their vote. this is about campaigning, i.e. getting a message out, and letting people make up their own minds. fact is, obama misled on this issues over the last month of the campaign as much as he possibly could. this sounds more like a "threat to liberal vodoo economics",

Posted by: dummypants | November 8, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Kristina, you are right in that, when people actually know that they are being bought they get pretty upset. However, many voters are "low information", and many of our officers and local leaders are too corrupt conceptually and ideologically to care.

The system works for some people, and not for everybody. When the system stops working for the corrupting few, starts hurting the corrupted some, then something will get done about it.

Most likely a few scapegoats will be found, a little bit of bread and circuses will be distributed to the masses, and the wealthy and powerful [The people Orwell likened to pigs] who rule us at all levels will continue corrupting the rest of us while claiming to be against "Gubbornment" and that "government" or "socialists" are at fault.

Bush's vision of an "owned society" includes us as owned folks.

Posted by: chris_holte | November 8, 2010 4:55 PM | Report abuse

As we've seen in the last couple of cycles, more money means that elections are more competitive.

Posted by: tomtildrum | November 8, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Ms. vanden Huevel; all,

FIRST: when are you folks in "the main-stream media" (really the leftist/extremist media) going to figure out that we TEA PARTY folks are not DIMocRATS or Republicans?

instead, we are "old-school" Jeffersonian Democrats, who want the whole current crop of Congress-critters & "the coven of creeps, cretins, corrupt union bosses & common criminals" (the denizens of the current WH) & BHO gone forever from our nation's Capitol
and
want our federal government returned to a small, sane & Constitutional government.

given our choice, we TEA PARTY folks would:
1. outlaw all donations from outside the Congressional district (outside of the state for US Senate) to HoR members & US Senators,
2. outlaw union & corportate donations & gifts of any sort whatever to any person elected/appointed to any federal job,
3. outlaw all donations to a Presidential candidate, except personal donations which are clearly identified by name/address/occupation/phone number,
4. allow the Congressional Districts & States voters to set the salary/staff levels/expenses of every elected representative,
5. limit every individual to 8 years of total federal elective/appointed office (yes, including federal judges),
6. prohibit any "perks of office" or "fringe benefit" to any official, that is not freely available to every citizen,
7. forbid pensions/gifts of any sort/honorariums to any elected/appointed federal office-holder
and
8. make violations of any of the above provisions federal felonies (including offering and/or accepting prohibited items of value), punishable by not less than 20 years imprisonment, for each violation.

to all: if you are disgusted with the mess that the "political professionals" have made of our government, come join your local TEA PARTY & be part of the Second American Revolution, against the elites/"the rulers"/criminals.
you will be warmly welcomed & quickly "put to work" to help us get our representative republic back.

sincerely yours, Retired MP46

Posted by: retiredMP46 | November 8, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

If people truly opposed these special interests, they would not have voted last week for the party that benefitted from them many, many times more than the other.

Since the public sided with the GOP on this, anything goes in 2012.

Posted by: chi-town | November 8, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

So Katrina, is the flood of cash of unknown origins via the unions and Dem shadow groups of any concern to you, or just Republican money?

Posted by: mark31 | November 8, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

So Katrina, is the flood of cash of unknown origins via the unions and Dem shadow groups of any concern to you, or just Republican money?

Posted by: mark31 | November 8, 2010 8:47 PM | Report abuse

People spending money needlessly to steal more money from the people with less votes or soak the rich. To get rich in politics you have to be a crook. My lifestyle doesn't take lots of money, that's for the women. Buy better wine. I'm having a grilled cheese sandwich and beer.

Posted by: jobandon | November 9, 2010 1:25 AM | Report abuse

"In fact, post-election polling from Democracy Corps showed that voters are just as angry with elected officials in Washington working for the elites and not regular people as they are with perceived issues of "big spending and liberal policies."

================

Why do you go to such great pains to twist truth to your communist desires? Polling is by definition opinion...so all polls are perception. Yet you use opinion to establish fact...wtf? Then you take something that IS fact...results of elections...and link them closely to perceptions. The fact is simple..."big spending and liberal policies" WERE voted out...that is fact. You make me vomit a bit KvH.

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | November 9, 2010 1:39 AM | Report abuse

You miserable hypocrite. A quick FEC search reveals that you've given $94,480 to candidates and PACs over the past 12 years.

If you're so opposed to special interest money, why do you donate to special interests?

$2,000 to "South Dakota Women Vote!"? Funny that a South Dakota voting group has their mailing address on Connecticut Ave. in DC.

$6,000 to "Voters for Choice/Friends of Family Planning"? Can you say with a straight face that they are not a special interest group?

Not to be outdone, your daddy (corporate titan Willaim vanden Heuvel) has given $92,900, including $1,000 to something called the "Rangel Victory Fund".

Hmm, now why would your father, who sits on the boards of numerous corporations (including North Aegean Petroleum Co.) give $1,000 to Charlie Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means (ie, the tax writing) Committee?

Hypocrite.

Posted by: Hk45 | November 9, 2010 7:41 AM | Report abuse

It seems to me that the popular liberal vs conservative battle is a proxy war between private and public interests. The rich can't persuade voters to support predatory practices so they confuse the issue with "Freedom" and "smaller government" and take advantage of the inability of most voters to understand the link between demagogery and bloated government.

Posted by: PaulSilver | November 9, 2010 8:33 AM | Report abuse

I always had faith/confidence in the impartiality of the Supreme Court. But after their recent decision on campaign contributions, I know where they sit - somewhere to the right of Louis XIV. And let us not forget what they did to the country in Gore vs Bush - we are suffering and will be suffering for a log time because of that fiasco. Time for the American people to storm the Bastille!!!!

Posted by: PlumHunter | November 9, 2010 8:52 AM | Report abuse

"... three in four voters believe that the flood of money spent this cycle poses a "real threat" to our elections and Congress..."

Then three out of four voters are grossly misinformed and have mistaken priorities.

I'll quote George Will, in this very paper:

"That is about what Americans spend in one year on yogurt but less than they spend on candy in two Halloween seasons. Procter & Gamble spent $8.6 billion on advertising in its most recent fiscal year.

Those who are determined to reduce the quantity of political speech to what they consider the proper amount are the sort of people who know exactly how much water should come through our shower heads (no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, as stipulated by a 1992 law). Is it, however, really worrisome that Americans spend on political advocacy -- on determining who should make and administer the laws -- much less than they spend on potato chips ($7.1 billion a year)?"

Posted by: dell4 | November 9, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

The idea that people only vote with the candidate with the best financing, or who has the most ads, is absurd. basically - it says that americans are dumb as nails, and only listen to whatever is said to them.

That people think it's a bad thing - well, that's fine, but it doesn't matter what they *think* about it - the real question is - do they ONLY vote for the candidate with the most cash? Or best funded by 'outside sources'? The answer is clearly NO.

So what is the problem? If we think the american voter is a complete idiot - then, well, um, ...why have elections at all? Just appoint a leader and be done with it. Cuba I suppose is a great example. OOH! or venezuela. Maybe we could be just like them.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 9, 2010 9:25 AM | Report abuse

[ a "threat to our elections" implies that the money is being used to buy the election, i.e. given to voters in exchange for their vote. this is about campaigning, i.e. getting a message out, and letting people make up their own minds. fact is, obama misled on this issues over the last month of the campaign as much as he possibly could. this sounds more like a "threat to liberal vodoo economics",]

Posted by: dummypants | November 8, 2010 3:01 PM

No, it's about money given to CANDIDATES in exchange for their vote. Try not to be misled by the national Chamber of Commerce, (which has been so blatant in its buying of government favors for the international megacorporations that many local Chambers speaking for entrepreneurial American small businesses are disassociating themselves from it).

Posted by: Adam_Smith | November 9, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Sure people say they care, but they also allow themselves to be taken in by politicians propaganda nonsense which takes loads of money to produce and spread.

If people really care, they would tune out the propaganda nonsense and take the time to find out the candidates and where they stand and make their votes base on that, but they don't and propaganda nonsense really works.

So in the end, politicians need loads of money to produce nonsense propaganda just to have a chance in the game. That is what the so called special interest groups have to offer.

Posted by: lohengrin | November 9, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

In fact, nowadays political campaign has large marketing component. The psychologists have the mass all figured out and really know how to move them. It works with political advertisements as surely as it works for commercial advertisements, but these things don't come in cheap. That's where the special interest groups come in--they offer the money.

Posted by: lohengrin | November 9, 2010 11:44 AM | Report abuse

In fact, nowadays political campaign has large a marketing component. The psychologists have the mass all figured out and really know how to move them. It works with political advertisements as surely as it works for commercial advertisements, but these things don't come in cheap. That's where the special interest groups come in--they offer the money.

Posted by: lohengrin | November 9, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

The problem is not necessarily the amount that is being spent or who is doing the spending. The huge problem is twofold:

1. The volume of attack ads was ridiculous. Political ads should focus on the issues that the politicians stand for, not on attacking their opponent. I want to know what you will do about our country's problems.

2. The ads (on both sides) were full of lies and mis-information. This is really what fueled the election. Again, political ads need to focus on INFORMING the public, not duping it.

And for whomever equated union donations to the Democratic party with the undisclosed spending by outside groups is greatly mistaken. We are fully aware of which unions donated to the Democratic party. We do not know who funded American Crossroads and others (others includes Democratic groups, too, by the way).

Posted by: cartoongal | November 9, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Just because I may not be able to do everything I want to, doesn't mean I don't want to do all I am able to do! Not voting is voting, against yourself. Didn't we just see the proof of this on Tuesday?

The republicans these days are fanatics. They will vote, and they will vote for the most un-American of things.

There are virtually no Democrats in the south. Being a democrat in the south is unacceptable to the southerners. These people are divisive to the extreme, and they have gone insane since a black man was put into the Presidency.

As I see it, there are basically two things to do:
1. Financial reform on all levels. Get corporate interests out of our government. Corporations are not "the people". The Disclose Act is only a start. Campaign finance reform is only a start. Free our government from financial interests so that it may truly be a government of, for, and by, the people.
2. Participate every bit as hard, indeed even more so, than the fanatics who would destroy this country. These people are worse than those who would turn the clock back to the 1830's, these people are anti-federalists, still fighting the fight of having any federal government at all. Participation includes voting. It includes holding those for whom you voted accountable for their actions. It includes being an active participant in our government! Voting is only one part of that. If you care for this country, participate!

Abraham Lincoln said it: "A house divided cannot stand." The republicans these days are fighting hard to destroy 98% of this country. Those of us who believe in ourselves, our families, our communities, our states, and this nation, need to fight even harder than those who would destroy this most wonderful of countries.

I stand with ALL Americans who love this whole country, not just someone's small part of it.

Posted by: reykev | November 9, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Here's another good article on corporations purchasing our democracy:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130641852#commentBlock

Posted by: reykev | November 9, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Here's even another article on this democracy destroying practice:

http://blog.sunlightfoundation.com/2010/10/19/citizens-united-before-after-what%E2%80%99s-next/comment-page-1/#comment-195233

Posted by: reykev | November 9, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

retiredMP46, you imply that the Tea Party opposes the priorities of both Republicans and Democrats and say that given the choice, the Tea Party would make several interesting changes to election laws, including banning campaign contributions from outside of a state (for Senate elections) or outside of a district (House elections).

You are ignoring the fact that the Tea Party did have a choice in 2010. In a year when the movement had more visibility than it will ever have again, the Tea Party could have attempted to prove that it does, in fact, offer a viable alternative to the Democrat and Republican parties. Instead, the movement sold out lock, stock, and barrel to the Republican Party. Its candidates ran as Republicans and, in doing so, took every penny that the Republican Party and Republican-affiliated groups such as FreedomWorks and Crossroads were willing to throw their way.

If it ever had any credibility to begin with, the Tea Party movement cashed that check and spent the proceeds in 2010.

Posted by: exco | November 9, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Ms. vanden Heuvel,
The American people are very angry about the secret financing of attack media against liberals and progressives.
But the Disclose Act? NONSENSE! That thing is a smoke and mirrors farce.
We need a Constitutional Amendment that strips corporations and monied groups of the rights given to the individual citizen. Financing political propaganda must be done in full public view, or the American Democratic Republic is doomed.
C. R. Touby

Posted by: cbctouby | November 9, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Katrina, you are such an intelligent and insightful person but why must you justify your opinions on polls that are so unreliable. Are we so insecure as political observers that we caan't root opinion in opinion?

Posted by: hgoldstein1mppartnerscom | November 9, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Hk45, since you immediately went to look up the author's publicly disclosed donations, one would assume that you understand that there is a world of difference between a person giving a size-limited, traceable donation to a candidate or PAC and a group of anonymous people/entities donating unknown amounts of money through a group that is not overseen by the FEC to influence an election. Even the head of the Republican National Committee noted the other day that it now takes the RNC thousands of hours to bring in the same amount in FEC-allowable donations that Karl Rove can accept at Crossroads from a single anonymous donor on a single day. (The donation he used as an example was a $7 million anonymous donation.)

And Mark31, the answer to your question is that it shouldn't matter in the least to any of us whether untraceable donations are going to politicians on the left or on the right.

Posted by: exco | November 9, 2010 4:29 PM | Report abuse

exco; Retired MP46; all,

SIMPLE. we TEA PARTIERS are NOT a "monolithic group" (and so distrustful of "authority" that we don't even have "officers".) and in 2008 it was in "our best informed self interest" to align ourselves with the GOP (in most races) & to DESTROY the extremist DIMocRATS in every possible race, nationwide.
(for a "bunch of ignorant hicks from flyover country" - "PRINCESS PELOSI" called us that.- we didn't do badly for our first time out & absent $38,000,000 of DIRTY MONEY from the gambling industry/THE MOB, we would have defeated Harry Reid, too. = DIMocRATS thy name is HYPOCRITES!)

face it, "exco", my compatriot-in-arms (RetiredMP46) is 100% correct: we TEA PARTIERS are NOT going to "just fade away" (though the GOP "professionals" wish that we would, as they cannot buy us or "absorb" us!).
we will be back in 2012, 2014,2016 & beyond to "keep the GOP honest" (OR possibly take the GOP over - we do NOT want "a seat at the table"; instead we want the HOUSE & the US Senate) & intend to utterly DESTROY the leftist/extremist DIMocRATS as a politcal party.

meanwhile, i note that you didn't really "critique" (other than to say that they were "interesting")our "changes for elections". would you care to comment?

just my opinion. - i CANNOT officially speak for our county's TEA PARTY, absent a vote of the membership.

yours, TN46
coordinator, CCTPP

Posted by: texasnative46 | November 9, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

reykev,

do you enjoy being ridiculed? - your long post (several posts above this message) is the biggest bunch of "hogwash", bilgewater & errant foolishness that i've lately seen on this forum.
furthermore, your "points" (such as they are) are obviously straight out of the "talking points" of the DNC, "Code Pink", "International ANSWER" or one of the other "Republican - hating" leftist groups.

keep chanting to yourself, until you finally "get it": "My posting of leftist/extremist nonsense & lunatic foolishness on PostPartisan exposes me to public ridicule."

sincerely yours, Retired MP46

Posted by: retiredMP46 | November 10, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

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