Corporate America is on the attack in every state. As Joshua Holland explains for AlterNet, outside groups have spent somewhere between $750,000 and more than $2 million in an attempt to unseat Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in a state where ad buys come cheap. But Braley is almost certain to win anyway, even if his lead isn’t quite as comfortable as it was in 2008, when he took 64 percent of the vote. This is what corporations and wealthy elites are willing to pony up in races they’re sure to lose.
Most of that money comes from two groups: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a front-group for some of the nation’s largest corporations, and America’s Future Fund, a right-wing front-group founded by GOP lobbyist and ethanol executive Nick Ryan. Public News Service‘s Eric Mack highlights the races in Hawkeye state that are unusually flush with cash.
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission earlier this year, corporations and wealthy elites now have license to spend unlimited sums to promote candidates they like (or attack ones they don’t). Things are already getting out of hand. Outside groups are dumping millions of dollars into obscure races this year—even in places where they appear to have almost no chance of victory.
Republican Candidates are Raking it In
Thanks to Citizens United, much of the spending in midterm elections is secret. We’ll never know who is spending millions of dollars on anonymous attack ads. But a tiny fraction of the electoral purchases by outside groups have been disclosed, and if those are any guide, the Republican Party is reaping the vast majority of the rewards. As Jesse Zwick details for The Washington Independent, of the roughly $12 million in public corporate expenditures, they’re spending more than $9.7 million on behalf of Republican candidates.
The Chamber of Commerce’s Long History in Elections
Though big spending on campaigns is new for many political action committees, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been playing fast and loose with election law for years. As Harry Hanbury explains for GRITtv, the only reason the Chamber’s top brass aren’t behind bars right now may be due to deliberate cover provided by the Federal Elections Commission—its six members consist of three Republicans and three Democrats. Without four votes, the FEC can’t to do anything to curb the Camber’s activities. With the panel’s three Republicans ideologically opposed to the very idea of campaign finance regulation, serious action from the FEC is nearly impossible.
When the FEC’s own top lawyers found that a complaint against the Chamber reveals a gross violation of law, the partisans on the FEC board refused to take action. In 2004, when Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington took aim at $3 million in political spending that the Chamber deployed to re-elect President George W. Bush, the FEC did nothing because of the partisan deadlock.
Citizens United Helps Those at the Top
As David Brodwin explains for American Forum, the Citizens United decision doesn’t benefit businesses or corporations in general—it benefits the biggest, wealthiest corporations. When the Supreme Court freed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political efforts, that freedom doesn’t help companies with constrained resources. In other words, Citizens United is a structural force that will permanently and inevitably reinforce the status quo. As the Wall Street crash, the BP oil disaster, the mining malfunctions in West Virginia and countless other recent corporate shortcuts have shown, the status quo is not acceptable.
“The money that will flood the political system will not represent the views of companies in green America” Brodwin writes. “Instead, the money that will flood the system will come from organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is expected to spend more than $200 million this year on lobbying and direct campaign expenditures. This organization and others like it represent companies that don’t value responsible business. Is this the kind of business thinking that we want to dominate our political discourse?”
But Wait, There’s More!
- In a Q&A with Sam Petulla at The American Prospect, Sheila Krumholz, executive director at the Center for Responsive Politics, talks about how the current problems with Citizens United remind her of the 1990s.
- Check out my interview on corporate spending on The Young Turks.
- Alexandra Gutierrez explains at The American Prospect how Alaska’s Republican Senate candidate Joe Miller became an unlikely opponent to the new rules created by Citizens United.
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