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Moyers and Winship write: "'Can 46 Rich Dudes Buy an Election?' almost all men, mostly white, 'and so far, the vast majority of their contributions have been made to conservative groups.' They want to own this election. So if there are any of you left out there with millions to burn, better buy your candidate now, while supplies last."

The gift that keeps on giving. (photo:  PBS)
The gift that keeps on giving. (photo: PBS)

Campaign Cash Is the Gift That Keeps on Giving

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Bill Moyers & Company

15 June 12


f you’re visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful Super PAC donors have money to spare, but it's democracy they're burning to the gift, might we suggest a nice Super PAC? Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, they’re all the rage among the mega-wealthy. All it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as The Washington Post describes it, a “highly customized, highly personalized” political action committee.

It’s easy -- Super PACs come in all amounts and party affiliations. You don’t have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won’t be turned aside.  Cable TV tycoon Marc Nathanson got a Super PAC for his friend, longtime Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from California, and all it cost was $100,000. Down in North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate George Holding received a handsome Super PAC that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. Yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions.

You can start a Super PAC on your own or contribute to one that already exists. Super PACs are available for every kind of race - presidential, congressional or statewide. But there are other ways you can help buy an election. Look at the Wisconsin recall campaign of Republican Governor Scott Walker. At least fourteen billionaires rushed to the support of the corporate right’s favorite union basher. He outraised his Democratic opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, by nearly eight to one. Most of his money came from out of state. More than sixty million dollars were spent, $45 million of it for Walker alone.

Here are just a few of the satisfied buyers:

Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks contributed more than half a million dollars on Scott Walker’s behalf. Her late husband built ABC Supply, America’s largest wholesale distributor of roofing, windows and siding.  Fearful the United States might become “a socialistic ideological nation,” she’s an ardent foe of unions and, in her words, “taxing job creators.” True to her aversion to taxes, she paid none in 2010, despite being worth, according to Forbes magazine, about $2.8 billion dollars.

Before he launched his crusade against the collective bargaining rights of working people, Governor Walker had a conversation with Diane Hendricks, in which she asked, “Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state and work on these unions… and become a right to work [state]? What can we do to help you?”

Walker replied, “We`re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is, we`re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.”

And so he did.

Walker also hauled in checks for nearly half a million from the Texas oligarch Bob Perry. He made his fortune in the home building business and is best known nationally for contributing four and a half million to the Swift Boat campaign that smeared the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry back in 2004.

In Texas, Bob Perry is known for his cozy relationship with the state’s Supreme Court.  He once gave money to every one of its nine elected judges.  And guess what?  Those same nine judges later overturned an $800,000 judgment against his building company for faulty construction.  Bob the Builder, who’s naturally eager for help in the cause of tort reform -- that is, making it hard for everyday people to sue corporations like his for malfeasance -- has so far given four million to the pro-Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future, and millions to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads Super PAC.

Then there’s casino king Sheldon Adelson, who gave Scott Walker’s cause $250,000. That’s a drop in the old champagne bucket compared to the $21 million Adelson’s family gave to the Super PAC that kept Newt Gingrich in the race long after the formaldehyde had been ordered.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Adelson did not long mourn Gingrich’s passing, and has now given at least $10 million to the Restore Our Future Super PAC supporting Romney. By all accounts, what he expects in return is that his candidate hold unions at bay and swear that Israel can do no wrong.

Next up on Scott Walker’s list of beneficent plutocrats: Rich DeVos, owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team and co-founder of the home products giant Amway, which, thanks to Republican leaders in Congress, once shared in a $19 million tax break after a million-dollar DeVos contribution to the Republican Party.  He’s a long-time member of the secretive Council for National Policy, a who’s who of right-wing luminaries.

Let’s not forget cowboy billionaire and born again Christian, Foster Friess, Rick Santorum’s moneyman, who told us about the good ol’ days when womenwould “use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly.”And Louis Moore Bacon, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Moore Capital - which in 2010 was fined $25 million for attempted commodities manipulation. A big backer of Romney, he, too came to Walker’s aid in Wisconsin.

So did Dallas oil and gas wildcatter Trevor Rees-Jones, who’s given millions to Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, in anticipation of another administration as friendly to taxpayer subsidies for big oil as the Rove-Bush White House. Last year, Rees-Jones’ company, Chief Oil, and a partner sold to Chevron nearly a quarter million acres in northeast America’s Marcellus Shale - the epicenter of the raging controversy over fracking. Estimated price: one billion dollars.

We could go on and name more, but you get the picture. These are the people who are helping to fund what the journalist Joe Hagan describes as a “tsunami of slime.” Even as they and their chosen candidates are afforded respectability in the value-free world of plutocracy, they can hide the fingerprints they leave on the bleeding corpse of democracy in part because each Super PAC comes with that extra special something every politician craves: plausible deniability. When one of their ads says something nasty and deceitful about an opponent - when it slanders and lies - the pol can shrug and say: “Not my doing. It’s the Super Pac that’s slinging the mud, not me.”

And that’s how the wealthy one percent does its dirty business. They are, by the way, as we were reminded by CNN’s Charles Riley in his report, “Can 46 Rich Dudes Buy an Election?” almost all men, mostly white, “and so far, the vast majority of their contributions have been made to conservative groups.”  They want to own this election.  So if there are any of you left out there with millions to burn, better buy your candidate now, while supplies last. your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+17 # wwway 2012-06-15 22:29
We common working folks are asked for campaign contributions but what do we get for our investment? My high school government class figured out that if every person in the 99% gave $1.00 there would never be enough money to buy representatives in government or a lobby. The only wealth common people have is their vote and they can't afford to waste it on siding with the highest bidder with the biggest lies.
+17 # jimyoung 2012-06-16 08:11
Quoting wwway:
... can't afford to waste it on siding with the highest bidder with the biggest lies.

Reminds me of when I asked an Argentine pilot what he thought of our 2010 "election." He said, "Election? It looked more like an auction."
+2 # ghostperson 2012-06-16 13:50
Your last sentence is a magnificent anthem.
Well, well said.
+18 # angelfish 2012-06-15 23:02
How did we sink to this abysmally low degree? How is it possible in, what USED to be the Greatest Country in the Free World, our Elections can be bought and sold to the ones with the most money? This is DISGRACEFUL and, if the SCOTUS doesn't reverse their "citizens united" decision, we are TOTALLY ruined. Where is Sanity? Where is Justice? Where are the Mr. Smiths who will fight for those of us without all that cash? NEVER Vote ReTHUGlican! The People, UNITED, will NEVER be defeated!
+2 # John Locke 2012-06-16 08:14
angelfish: To continue to play that tune, "NEVER Vote ReTHUGlican" voting for the party that is equally controlled by the same money elite is in reality to "surrender" out of ignorance to a corrupt system. When you know both parties are under the influence of the same people...and the same money... doesn't it make sense to abandon both parties and search for a real alternative, an independent candidate and support him. What will it take, storm troopers at your door before you wake up?
+5 # angelfish 2012-06-16 13:53
Quoting John Locke:
angelfish: To continue to play that tune, "NEVER Vote ReTHUGlican" voting for the party that is equally controlled by the same money elite is in reality to "surrender" out of ignorance to a corrupt system. When you know both parties are under the influence of the same people...and the same money... doesn't it make sense to abandon both parties and search for a real alternative, an independent candidate and support him. What will it take, storm troopers at your door before you wake up?

Until the Voting Public begins to USE the power of their Vote, I will stick with the ones who do the LEAST amount of harm to John Q. Public. Currently, the Democrats are a much better option!
+8 # Barbara K 2012-06-16 12:22
angelfish: I'm with you. Never vote Rethuglican. They are destroying this country every way they can dream up. Time to kick them out of our government. Election time is coming, and WE Vote. Get these thugs out of OUR government ASAP!
+19 # PABLO DIABLO 2012-06-15 23:47
This is not the first presidency bought by rich white men, it is the first under the glare of the media. Thanks to Citizens United, what we called bribery is now legal.
+1 # John Locke 2012-06-16 08:18
PABLO DIABLO: Citizens United did not legalize Bribery, lobbying did!

Citizens United only allows an unfettered amount of money to be spent on elections by the 1%...The real problem isn't the money, its the lack of intelligence of the American Voter who can be persuaded to vote against their own interest!
+7 # Kiwikid 2012-06-15 23:57
The rest of the world looks on in wonder, "Only in America...."
+5 # Richard1908 2012-06-16 00:26
The world's greatest democracy? Don't worry about it, just send Hillary tripping around the world telling everyone else how to do it,
+15 # James Marcus 2012-06-16 01:00
When will we stop this Charade?
We need:
Publicly funded elections.
No donations, gifts, trust transfers, etc, of any kind campaign or otherwise, to politicians.
Grass roots nomination/elim ination process.
Equal advertising for all qualified candidates.
REAL public debates amongst finalists.
Term limits.
Reduced salaries and Benefits. Political Office is a Public service job, not a 'Ticket-to-Ride '.
All current Office Holders, and the Supreme Court Justices, must stand for re-election/re- appointment.

All This, is neither expensive, unreasonable nor difficult.
Much would be healed by 'Infusing Integrity' into the system.
But, 'The Entrenched' will not undertake these changes themselves, vc
+4 # John Locke 2012-06-16 08:21
James Marcus, in an ideal world, yes, but If you are thinking any of this will pass by Congress, it won't it will have to start at the level of state governments, and they are for the most part equally corrupt.

Politics seems to breed corruptable individuals!
-19 # brucbaker 2012-06-16 04:57
O.K. will Bill Moyers NOW do a story on Obama using the TAX FREE office of President to RAISE more MONEY than any other president in HISTORY!

Seriously .. Obama has held more fundraisers and raised/ spent more cash than any president should ... so let's be fair about this biased attack .. if you want to do a story on attacking Republicans .. DO a story attacking the fundraising and superpacs of Obama/ Democrats.

Or ... isn't this RSS News .. FAIR?

On the other hand .... see how much cronyism is going on Under the Obama Administration ... now there is a story that makes BOSS TWEED look like a small time bookie!
-16 # John Locke 2012-06-16 08:25
brucbaker: Thank you, and for example Like Obama providing government money for Michelle Obama's brother?

Michelle Obama's Brother Kept OSU Coaching Job Thanks to Stimulus Bribe by Obama his brother in law!
+3 # tabonsell 2012-06-16 14:31
Craig Robinson might have kept his job because he has the Beavers winning a few basketball games; a rare occurrence ever since Gary Payton departed the place
+3 # jimyoung 2012-06-18 09:27
Snopes makes a very good case that there was no meat to the accusations at The opposite seems true, a Glen Beck type rearrangement of times and implied motives, to take a story with 3% "facts" time order shifted into a 97% distortion that is almost totally opposite the bigger story.

When I checked on it, it seemed Craig, despite pretty good prospects as a pro had been talked into business school and a very "financially" successful business career by his Princeton coach. Though financially successful, the family toll wasn't worth it, so he went back to what he most enjoyed, Basketball, at 1/10th what he used to make. I think he is like many of the Wall Street dissatisfied, far above average in intelligence and ability, who quit the street. It didn't matter what it paid, they put their talents to use in other areas that had been deprived of their talents by the Wall Street recruiters that recruited so much of our best talent into the often carelessly self-interested , high paying, but morally deficient easy money "profession."

I hope many more take a similar path.
+8 # jimyoung 2012-06-16 08:26
Where would this have been without a Citizens United escalation/atro city? The presidential campaigns are only the tip of the iceberg, I'm much more worried about the ALEC type insidious sabotage at state and local levels. My old party seems to spend 7 times as much in the primaries that matter to them, and schedule the multiple heavy hitters into spending substantial, but less obviously multiples in the prepared ground (voter suppression) in the critical electoral college important areas. They work the spending limits/timing as well or better than anyone, and have a much larger war chest to spread money where it gets the best results. It reminds me of "bought" police protection during Prohibition.

Will we see another outrageous outcome with a plurality (even with voter suppression) nullified by a power grab through electoral college manipulation. Don't people wonder how Republican tactics change depending on whether they gain or lose by winner-take-all or proportional awards of electors?
0 # Michael Lee Bugg 2012-06-20 14:30
Good points Jim Young! The Republicans are working 24-7 to prevent as many likely-Democrat ic voters as they can in what looks to be a close election like Bush vs. Gore in 2000. All they have to do to steal this election is keep it close, flip votes in a couple close states, then claim that Obama supporters didn't come out to vote! Democrats in Washington sit silently and watch as if they are clueless! That said, Obama's only *hope* is to convince voters that Romney will pick up where W left off and compare his performance to W! If Obama had worked for the people who voted for him believing his promiss of real change instead of working for the wealthy people who donated the most money Obama would at least still have the faith of those people and their enthusiastic support! I went to a Democratic Party function recently, in a presidential election year no less, and only 178 people (mostly over 50 years old) showed up and Obama's name was only mentioned by the last speaker, and apologetically at that! The speaker did support the Affordible Care Act, but that was about all he had to say in favor of Obama. That is a bad sign, even here in the "red" state of Kentucky!
0 # Bodiotoo 2012-06-16 10:50
Some fact checking links please...withou t them you are just spouting.
+2 # ghostperson 2012-06-16 13:51
Only if he does a parallel story comparing the money put into the last Bush campaign and every campaign hereafter.
+2 # ghostperson 2012-06-16 13:55
Forgot to mention Jack Abramoff--whose watch did he land on? The biggest bribery scandal in the history of our country?

One must have at least some ability to see objectively otherwise it is just more carping something we need no more of.
+4 # angelfish 2012-06-16 13:59
...and he's STILL Outspent by the ReTHUGS! So, you can be an Axe Murderer and if you have enough MONEY you can BUY a new Reputation, a new Persona and a COUNTRY! This is VILE! In my opinion, if WE, the People are unable to compete with the Gazillionaires, then we should and MUST Vote for the Candidate who will do the LEAST amount of harm and the MOST good for ALL of us! That Candidate in THIS Election is President Obama!
+3 # tabonsell 2012-06-16 14:28
This article is not about how much money Obama raises or how much money Romney raises. It is not about how much money the Republican Party raises or how much the Democratic Party raises.

This article is about PACs; nothing more, nothing less.

The despicable Citizens United decision wasn't about party activity or candidate activity; it was solely about special interests ability to buy elections and throw democracy into the dustbin of history.

Americans -- maybe even a couple Supreme Court judges -- would be appalled if our trials (both criminal and civil) were decided on which side could spend the most money on lies, distortions, deceptions, character assassinations, slander, etc, etc. So why do we allow our elections to be decided that way?

The book "Saving America: Using Democratic Capitalism to Rescue the Nation from Economic Folly" (Algora Publishing of New York City) has a couple of solutions to this problem.
+2 # jerryball 2012-06-16 18:56
Now there's a WTF ploy. Make fun of Obama's fighting fire with fire to make him stop and then lose the entire house? Go fish for more suckers Brubaker. I think you think the American People fell off the turnip truck.
+13 # Barbara K 2012-06-16 05:55
Anyone can win anything by cheating and buying. Let's see the Repubs win honestly, with no cheating or lies or millionaires. Bet they can't. They are soulless members of the Liars Club, and Romney is their King. Dems need to fight fire with fire.
-13 # John Locke 2012-06-16 08:31
Barbara K: You must have missed the past 4 years, Obama has, he lied to us all, to get elected. He lied about the change we would receive under his watch. There really is no difference.

He has even pursued Bush's failed policies, and protected his financial backers on Wall Street, he gave the 1% the tax cut extension the wanted, and has pursued the secret eavesdropping of the Bush administration, he and Bush are closer then you think.
+13 # humanmancalvin 2012-06-16 06:00
This is like a bad movie where hostile big money groups take over all the businesses in America & turn it all into stores named Give Us Your Money. And that just may be close to the truth.
The Supreme Court is firmly far right,see: Bush vs. Gore, 2000 & Citizens United. Paving the way for 8 disastrous years of the biggest American tax money give away in history & green lighting the Super-Pacs that are now the true & real American voters. Democrats, go ahead & sit idly by 7 talk all the snap you want about President Obama & how you may sit this one out. Do so at your utmost peril though. 8 new years with Romney AKA Bush on steroids as he panders to every nut job right winged Tea Bagger that screams in his direction. Our president also needs democratic majorities in both houses to get bills passed via super majority. This is the most important election in perhaps all of this countries history. As screwed up as it is today, I am afraid to envision a Red tomorrow.
+1 # cordleycoit 2012-06-16 06:08
The whore house never rests and the banker smiles when whore arrive at his door with his donation. The pimps and pacs recruit the girls and guys R or D it makes little difference, They are owned and ought to have their owners name tattooed on their foreheads they are owned and we ought to know by whom owns these dangerous people.
+11 # Abigail 2012-06-16 06:37
The cost of a campaign is governed by the cost of advertising on TV. In England, TV has been banned for political purposes. We should set a limit on the amount of money used for TV ads. I propose that all TV channels MUST donate a set amount of FREE time for all candidate for public office. If any candidate BUYS more time, then an equal amount of time MUST be given FREE to all his or her opponents. By taking the cost of running for office out of the picture, we have a chance of regaining our democracy.
+10 # stonecutter 2012-06-16 07:11
All these $billions behind them: a bought supreme court majority; a Congress of bought stooges (on both sides); a cult of zero-tolerance tax avoidance with their own private Torquemada Grover Norquist; a total repudiation of New Deal progressivism, unions and the last half of 20th century stunning middle class expansion and economic growth; a propaganda machine that makes Goebbels' operation seem like a high school newspaper; and all they can scrape up as actual or potential "leadership" are pandering, antideluvian mediocrities like Romney, Walker, or The Clown Circus Extraordinaire from their primary season? Something's lethally wrong with this picture. All they're missing is Bobby Jindal for Veep.

Of all people, Jeb Bush, the next link in the dynasty (45? 47?), is publicly speaking against these risible fools, The Jeb Bush who championed the cause in '03 of a comatose woman in a 13-year vegatative state and made an Orwellian state intervention into a private medical decision, simply to pander to "pro-life" interests rabidly supporting Terry Schiavo's parents against her husband and the courts. THIS Jeb Bush is challenging the current radical right-wing lunacy of his party, and being lauded as a welcome "breath of fresh air" by establishment Republicans who lost their cujones in the face of the tea party coup. These people have no shame, no institutional memory, no scruples other than the pursuit of money and power, and no future in this country.
+3 # jimyoung 2012-06-16 08:55
Quoting stonecutter:
...their own private Torquemada, Grover Norquist...

Great comparison. There was an Inquisition before Torquemada but he took it to epic proportions. The consequences are still felt today. I was intrigued to learn that Linda Chavez (Bush nominee for Labor Secretary that withdrew her name)found out her "Catholic) background came from the Inquisition when her family became Converso (crypto-Jews, claiming to have converted). She became curious about why her grandmother kept turning the statue of Jesus to face the wall, which led to a "Finding Your Roots" segment that I saw recently.

It still amazes me to see the consequences of expelling talented people for "religious" or ethnic reasons. Most recently, I've met Volga Deutsch who are just now learning about the appalling numbers lost in Stalin's actions against them in WWII.
+13 # jimyoung 2012-06-16 08:04
Plausible deniability, indeed. Though Thomas Jefferson is a relative, I respect John Adams more in the area of lack of political subterfuge. Though Adams had some flaws, he seemed to speak the truth as he saw it, no matter what the political consequences were. At least Adams and Jefferson patched up their differences and became great friends again. I fear that is impossible in this day and age.

I used to take comfort that most politicians wouldn't actually be as extreme as their campaigns would have you believe (G.H.W. Bush was still a bit free of total control by his party). Now I'm afraid my old party will do even worse, as they sabotage our system with ALEC type tentacles at so many state and local levels. It seems to allow people like Grover Norquist to create vacuums in responsive government at federal, state, and local levels. As David Frum reported, Norquist outrageously claimed at CPAC, "We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don't need someone to think it up or design it. The leadership now for the modern conservative movement for the next 20 years will be coming out of the House and the Senate."

I don't need that type of unaccountable leadership.
+2 # John Steinsvold 2012-06-16 11:08
An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative".
She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."~ Albert Einstein
+5 # fredboy 2012-06-16 14:51
Citizens United opened the whorehouse, making it legal and expedient to buy and own politicians.
+3 # Cdesignpdx 2012-06-17 01:06
Disprove the propaganda that is being fed to Republican minions. All I hear is, they'll take away our freedom," What the..?
The 99% of right-wing adherents don't understand what Fascism is and that a Fascist system of government demands loss of personal freedom.
These unenlightened dunderheads call Obama, "Fascist, Nazi, Communist," which truly shows they don't know what they're talking about. (Fascism demands some brainwashing.)
Fascism in brief: 1. any ideology or movement inspired by Italian Fascism, such as German National Socialism (deceptive euphemism); any right-wing nationalist ideology or movement with an authoritarian and hierarchical structure that is fundamentally opposed to democracy
2. any ideology, movement, program, tendency, etc, that may be characterized as right-wing, chauvinist, authoritarian, etc.
3. prejudice in relation to the subject specified.
  Another Fascist indoctrination includes creating an intense fear of some "other." Ask any Jew who made it out of a WWII death camp or read their stories. Problem is, under the Romney Regime, we do not yet know who isn't to survive. I'm guessing, however, it's going to be 99% of us, political affiliation be damned. RIP, y'all.
+2 # cypress72 2012-06-18 13:58
I'd like to remind Mr. Moyers that no one was complaining in 2008 when Obama raised over $500 millon to win Election. If you as a voter are stupid enough to believe the ads of these Super PACs from either Party,I feel pity for you. Aren't there any free thinkers left in the Country?? Are we all so easily manipulated by some slick videos are scary voices??

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