Saturday, November 03, 2012

A Billion Here, A Billion There ...

I can't wait for Tuesday to be over, assuming (of course) that the election will be wrapped up late Tuesday night.  I'm sick of an email box stuffed with fund raising requests.  I'm sick of media telling me dozens of times a day how close the race is, what the polls say, what the polls don't say, and what the campaigns say about polls and their candidates. 

I'm sick of popcorn.

And I'm disgusted, primarily by all the money being thrown around in this election from the top of the ticket on down.  How much money?  Even Open Secrets doesn't know exactly, thanks to Citizens United, but at least that group has a pretty good idea.

The 2012 election will not only be the most expensive election in U.S. history, the cost will tower over the next most expensive election by more than $700 million.
Earlier this year, the Center for Responsive Politics estimated that the 2012 election would cost $5.8 billion -- an estimate that already made it the most expensive in history -- but with less than a week to go before the election, CRP is revising the estimate upwards. According to CRP’s new analysis of Federal Election Commission data, this election will likely cost $6 billion. ...

"In the new campaign finance landscape post-Citizens United, we're seeing historic spending levels spurred by outside groups dominated by a small number of individuals and organizations making exceptional contributions," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Not only is the total cost of the election record breaking, but the rate at which spending has increased -- and continues to increase -- in the closing weeks of the election is as well. In particular, outside groups are spending furiously.  Spending by these groups, for and against the two main presidential candidates, has grown from $19 million per week in early September to $33 million per week in early October to $70 million during the week beginning October 21.


That's a huge chunk of change in this economy, especially when just about all the candidates are wedded to the idea that we need to reduce the deficit.  They differ only on whose ox gets gored and how big the scar is going to be.


And we're not even sure who's floating that kind of money, at least some of it.

What remains unknown -- and may never fully be accounted for -- is how much money secretive “shadow money” organizations spent, with some investing massive sums on ads, but also on unreported and purportedly "non-political" activities, as the election neared. It may take years to determine how much they spent. Furthermore, it likely will never be known who provided the vast majority of this money, which includes at least $203 million in the last two months.

"One thing we can say for certain is that the transparency the Supreme Court relied upon to justify this new framework has been sorely lacking," said Krumholz.

In addition to the spending reported by nonprofits, however, at least $100-200 million more has been spent by these groups on "issue advocacy" that identifies a federal candidate, but was not required to be reported to the FEC. This is of concern because a number of these organizations -- particularly those that have organized since the Citizens United ruling, are spending huge sums and have super PAC counterparts -- are primarily political in nature. More disturbing than the secret spending (some of which can be pieced together based on studies of political ads and will eventually be summarized in tax reports to the Internal Revenue Service), is the secret source of this money. With no requirements to disclose where the money is coming from, voters in 2012 have been left with no real means to judge the credibility of the message or consider any hidden agendas leading those donors to give.   [Emphasis added]
Lewis Carroll would have been so proud.

Me?  Not so much.


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