When Money Is Speech Only The Rich Are Free

Well, now we know.

Not that we didn’t know already, but we now we’ve actually seen it, we know what it’s going to take. Maybe we all need to buy Powerball and MegaMillions tickets or something. Because right now our elections have been bought and paid for by a handful of super-wealthy elites and shadowy industry front groups. They bought hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of pro-Walker ads, drowning the Democrats in a river of cash.

Again I’m reminded that our political dysfunction benefits the news media, which sells campaigns the airtime and ad space. Without elections the bottom lines of our corporate television and print outlets would look a lot worse. Someone is benefiting from our political divide and it’s not the people.

We’ll figure out a way around this, we always do. Something will change, some new technology or organizing tool, Occupy 2.0, whatever. Negative political ads will cease to be effective, workers will find a new way to organize. Where we are now is not where we will be in a month, a year, five years. It never is.

(h/t, Joe My God)


And the Democrats take control of the state senate.


And oh goodie, let’s reward our media overlords even more for the political disarray they’ve created.


Filed under campaign finance, corporations, Wisconsin Protests

18 responses to “When Money Is Speech Only The Rich Are Free

  1. Randy

    Pirate Party USA. Report on NPR this morning about how they’re disrupting the status quo in Germany with “Liquod Feedback”. Web Based Issue Advocacy. Time for a return to Direct Democracy. Representative Democracy is inexorably flawed.

  2. All registered Dems should give at least $ 5 . I don’t know if it’s gonna help. My mom maxed her donation in 2008 election. Can’t afford to give that much now. I don’t know what happened in Wisconsin. I think the pro-Walker ads really worked.

    • The thing is, when a Sheldon Adelson drops $10 million on Newt Gingrich without even blinking an eye and has oodles left over to give to Walker and Romney and the phony baloney think tanks, well … it just makes these small donations seems really useless.

  3. Pingback: What Have I Been Saying, People? | Southern Beale

  4. has it occured to any democrats that maybe he won because people liked him better? He won two years ago before Citizens united

    Ron Paul outraised his competitors many times with small donations. The problem is there aren’t any democrats people like and want to help. Their answers for the financial crisis don’t make sense.

    • Why the fuck would any Democrats want to help a crackpot like Ron “batshit insane-racist-homophobic-misogynist” Paul?

      You’re hilarious.

      The Ron Paul Revolution that wasn’t. You need to do more than hammer up “Google Ron Paul” signs on every utility pole and public right-of-way.

  5. Mark Rogers

    In looking over the Exit Polling I noticed that union members and people with a union member in their household voted 38% for Walker. I suggest that this is where the election was lost by the pro-recall forces. No other data point in the exit polls seems as unexpected as that one.

    My guess is that there was a backlash among members of private sector unions about the benefits gained by the public service unions through political clout. It will be interesting to see what the political scientists conclude about such a surprising outcome.

    I mention this because I wanted to make the point that there were other reasons for the Walker victory than just money. Do you really think that ad spending made almost 40% of union households vote against an anti-union Governor? Of course not.

    The union voters who supported Walker knew exactly what they were doing. Blaming money for the defeat of the recall in light of the union vote seems to be misdirection.

    And the Democrats did gain control of the State Senate so all that money didn’t totally halt the recall efforts.

    I don’t remember Democrats complaining when candidate Obama, a supporter of campaign finance reform, opted out of the public financing system even though McCain chose to operate under the public financing rules. The Obama campaign vastly outspent the McCain campaign and all the current critics were quite as mice.

    By the way, it should also be noted here that the Obama Campaign used their funding advantage in part to fund their grassroots and social media efforts. Rather than just buy more ads and send more mail, the Obama team funded an amazing organization to identify, register and turn out millions of new voters. A campaign doesn’t need the most money, just enough.

    Also it helps to appreciate that full public funding would result in serious restrictions on our political process. For example, if all the money a candidate can get comes from the government, there will be practical limits on when a candidate can start campaigning. Even push cards and yard signs cost money so candidates couldn’t get them until the government decides that it is time to let candidates start paying for things.

    That is a de facto restriction on free speech since you would be forbidden to speak as a candidate before a specific date. Saying that a would-be candidate can go out and meet people without spending money might work for a city council seat or a state house district but it is laughable for candidates for Congress and Governor to name two types of campaign.

    Another problem with public funding is that it leads to large numbers of candidates, all getting the same amount of money. Again, it larger races you could see dozens of candidates. With limited money, the only people who benefit will be those with names like Aaron or Zurich. And can you imagine the fun of a congressional debate on tv where 20 candidates get to minutes each to discuss every issue facing America?

    Public financing of campaigns is a terrible idea that will only hurt democracy in America even further. Better to let any private individual give whatever with 24 hour posting by the campaign for anything over $500. You could even enact a blackout period where candidates cannot raise money just before the election. And requiting campaigns to post all expenditures within 24 hours of the purchase would help.

    • Ad spending was definitely a factor but no, it can’t be the only one. Over at Balloon Juice, I thought this was a very astute observation:

      So what happened? It’s actually quite simple if you look at the exit polls. The final question there was the key to the entire recall election. When asked “Do you think recall elections are appropriate” some 60% of Wisconsin voters said “Only for official misconduct” and another 10% said “never”….

      SteveM compares that to the California recall of Gray Davis, which was framed as a “voter revolt” — not a Republican revolt but a more broad “voter revolt” … it’s all in the framing which, as always, boils down to: everything is always OK when Republicans do it.

      The union voters who supported Walker knew exactly what they were doing

      Yeah, what the fuck ever, like you even know. The rest of your comment is your boilerplate “Republicans good, liberals bad” tripe you always spread over here and I didn’t finish reading it.

      Stop pretending, Mark. You do a really good job of pretending to be the “reasonable” “average American” “independent voter” but you always revert to type, which is partisan hack. Christ, at least I admit I’m a partisan.

      • Mark Rogers


        You are right that a lack of support for the recall on those grounds did have an effect. But almost 4 in 10 labor voters stayed with Walker in an election widely seen as crucial to the future of the union movement, especially public service unions. A 40% defection of the most impacted group raises questions about the level of private sector unions for public service unions.

        There are considerable differences of issues between the Wisconsin recall and the California recall but in principle, they are pretty much the same. If there were one signal difference in the two situations it would be that Wisconsin was not in anything like the condition of California.

        As for me, I never claimed to be non-partisan. But I am not a blind ideological fool unlike so many on both sides. I am critical of bad ideas and stupid behavior on the part of Republicans as well as Democrats, Conservatives as well as Liberals.

        Mostly I am a realist. It is fun to behave as if politics and government are like a Vandy vs UT football game but it at some point the adults need to admit that the other side has legitimate positions and compromise.

      • Meh, whatever. The vote was seen in a lot of different lights, depending on the partisan spin anyone wants to put on it. But pretending the tsunami of money didn’t have an impact — especially in light of Walker’s poll numbers six months ago — is just hackish.

        Look, I know you think you’re saving the world one liberal at a time. But I just wonder what the strategy is. All you’re doing is repeating the same GOP talking points we get from Reince and McConnell and Cantor & the rest. I mean really, the hive mentality is astonishing. At least on the left there’s been a constant debate about whether the national Democrats did enough to help with the Wisconsin recall, there was bitter discussion about Obama not holding a rally, others said they didn’t want him there because it wasn’t about him it was about Walker, blah blah.

        But I just wonder, you come in here and repeat the same shit we’ve all heard a thousand times, and I’m asking: do you think we’ll believe it the third time we hear it? The fourth? The hundredth? The thousandth? The ten thousandth? You haven’t convinced me or anyone in here that the Republicans are right about anything. If anything you’re having the opposite effect. What exactly is this activism you’re doing?

        Maybe it’s not about spreading the talking point. Maybe it’s about trying to get liberals off message or goad us into saying something awful. Maybe it’s about trying to badger us into shutting up. Really, is this what they teach you at TNGOP executive committee meetings?

        I find it kind of creepy. I don’t really get it, this stalking the liberal blogs to repeat the GOP talking point du jour. What the fuck brings you here?

  6. “My guess is that there was a backlash among members of private sector unions about the benefits gained by the public service unions through political clout”

    probably. Why shouldn’t the government have to suffer thruogh a recession the way us plebes do? Hillary Clinton isn’t worried about getting laid off. it’s annoying.

    The recall explanation doesn’t wash either. People vogted for walker 2 years ago, they voted for him again. He won because people like him.

    • Why shouldn’t the government have to suffer thruogh a recession the way us plebes do? Hillary Clinton isn’t worried about getting laid off. it’s annoying.

      Quite possibly the most uninformed and ignorant comment ever made over here. You get the prize. Government workers, especially on the state and local level, have been laid off right and left. The U.S. Secretary of State hasn’t lost her job but millions of government workers have. Even the Wall Street Journal has said this is why our unemployment rate is so high:

      The unemployment rate would be far lower if it hadn’t been for those cuts: If there were as many people working in government as there were in December 2008, the unemployment rate in April would have been 7.1%, not 8.1%.

      In the three months ended April, it shows that there were an average 20.3 million people engaged in government work, 1.2 million fewer than the average for the three months ended December 2008. That is more than double the job losses registered by the establishment survey.

      Facts are stupid things.

      • well thats great news. I would like to see a 100 percent govt unemployment rate. it’s too bad we can’t let it go under like Lehman brothers but in Wisconsin specifically the public sector unions bellyaching about benefits while people are out of work is tacky.

  7. Randy

    Mr. Rogers,

    Can you direct me to source which describes the methodology for the exit polling. Is it plausible that Walker supporters LIED to the pollsters about their union membership?

  8. “Do you or someone in your household belong to a labor union?”

    Broadens the category, no?