2012 election spending topped $6 billion

This is the first of two posts about the actual dollars in this election (the second will deal with foreign contributions, which foreigners freely admit to). Here’s the New York Times on this cycle’s monstrous election cost, with some of the numbers from big donors.

But first, let’s set the scene (my emphasis and some reparagraphing everywhere):

At the private air terminal at Logan Airport in Boston early Wednesday, men in unwrinkled suits sank into plush leather chairs as they waited to board Gulfstream jets, trading consolations over Mitt Romney’s loss the day before.

“All I can say is the American people have spoken,” said Kenneth Langone, the founder of Home Depot and one of Mr. Romney’s top fund-raisers, briskly plucking off his hat and settling into a couch.

Money politics corruption

Money via Shutterstock

These are the people whose feet never touch the ground, whose chauffeurs strew roses before them, whose wives never see the inside of a PornoScan, whose infants drink milk served by an endless line of Chinese factory workers — Your Betters, in other words. Somehow your NY Times reporters were allowed into that room.

I would suggest reading the article itself for just these touches alone. They appear throughout.

The total cost — more than $6 billion

Now to the data. On the total cost of this year’s two-year-long ad campaign (er, presidential election):

The most expensive election in American history drew to a close this week with a price tag estimated at more than $6 billion, propelled by legal and regulatory decisions that allowed wealthy donors to pour record amounts of cash into races around the country.

Those regulations also enabled foreign contributions too, don’t forget. Note though that mention of foreign contributions appears to be banned from domestic discourse — that “client state” implication could be way too close to the truth for the rubes to read. Those stories are found mainly in the foreign press.

Some individuals spent many millions

As to the contributors, the article offers these early glimpses. About Sheldon Adelson:

The biggest single donor in political history, the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, mingled with other Romney backers at a postelection breakfast, fresh off a large gamble gone bad. Of the eight candidates he supported with tens of millions of dollars in contributions to “super PACs,” none were victorious on Tuesday. …

Mr. Adelson’s giving to super PACs and other outside groups came to more than $60 million.

On  Karl Rove’s super PACs:

And as calls came in on Wednesday from some of the donors who had poured more than $300 million into the pair of big-spending outside groups founded in part by Karl Rove — perhaps the leading political entrepreneur of the super PAC era — [Adelson] offered them a grim upside: without us, the race would not have been as close as it was.

The Adelson theme above — “we needed to spend this much to keep it this close” — is a continuing subtheme of the article. But back to my money point. On wrestling momma (and real-America rube darling) Linda McMahon:

Linda E. McMahon, a Connecticut Republican who is a former professional wrestling executive, spent close to $100 million — nearly all of it her own money — on two races for the Senate, conceding defeat on Tuesday for the second time in three years.

Next, a tale of three spenders, including the Chicago Cubs owner:

Harold Simmons, a Texas industrialist, gave $26.9 million to super PACs backing Mr. Romney and Republican candidates for the Senate.

Joe Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs, spent close to $13 million to bankroll a super PAC attacking Mr. Obama over federal spending.

Bob Perry, a Texas homebuilder, poured more than $21 million into super PACs active in the presidential race and the Senate battles in Florida and Virginia, where Democrats narrowly prevailed.

See what happens when sports owners are made invisible to the fans? Fans give them their money to spend against them. Dumb; really dumb. Take that, Cubs fans. And don’t worry, there’s plenty more waiting. You give him the wherewithal, every losing season.

Koch Bros may have raised over $400 million

I’ll end with the Koch Bros. From the article:

A donor network marshaled by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists and conservative philanthropists, reportedly sought to raise $400 million for tax-exempt groups that are not required to disclose their spending.

That’s almost a half-billion dollars from the efforts of two guys, each worth $25 billion, by the way. Did you note the “‘reportedly”? That’s because there’s an acre of money laundering through these pretend-non-political non-profits. Click to see just one instance that is coming to light in California. Moving dark money is the name of the game for these guys — all of them.

Where did all that money go?

We’ve covered this before, but I’d be remiss in not mentioning it here. Where did all this money go? Most of it went to the media:

Remember how I said above that the media — the networks and TV stations — were a huge part of the [election reform] problem? Most people only look at the front end of the election system. They see how Big Money buys candidates who pay them back with favorable laws, low taxes, and lack of prosecutions.

But think of the candidate as just a pass-through for the cash. The money starts somewhere (Our Betters); they give it to campaigns and campaign surrogates; tons of people take a very generous cut; and it ends up somewhere. The candidate isn’t bought with the money; the candidate is bought with electoral office.

What does most of that money actually buy? TV time. Very expensive TV time. Think for a minute from the standpoint of the network or TV station owner:

■ I the media owner have a broadcast license that, in practice, I can never lose. (I pray daily to the Great God Clinton, blessings on his name, for that one.)

■ I have a political system that allows me to charge big bucks for what used to be free — access to TV for candidates.

■ I have a campaign financing system that dumps unlimited money into the pockets of politicians and their supporters — and that money needs to be spent.

■ Who do they spend it on? Me.

As a general rule, 75% of campaign money goes to media and communications, and while I don’t have the TV numbers (national and local), I’d bet that TV accounts for the bulk of it.

And this is why we may never get low-cost uncorrupted elections. It’s not just the candidates who are corrupted. Everyone who touches that money is corrupted — especially the end-user, our national and local media. They will kill to keep things just like this. Wouldn’t you, if you were a monomaniac money-seeker (sorry, corporate-profit-responsible CEO)?

Next up, foreign contribs. We don’t talk about it much, here in the U.S. of A. — that sale of real national independence would make even the rubes nervous. But the foreign press has no such qualms.

GP

To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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