Editor's Note: Each week we repost an excerpt of Katrina vanden Heuvel's column on WashingtonPost.com.
"Apres nous, le deluge." Surely the reactionary gang of five on the Supreme Court should have cited Louis XV in their Citizens United decision overturning precedent to open the floodgates to corporate campaign spending. For all the fixation on Tea Partyers, what is most notable about this election is the rising tide of money that is lifting many Republican candidates—and how it ultimately contradicts the message that GOP contenders are delivering to voters.
Only two months ago, Democratic Party operatives were boasting that the war chests of Democratic incumbents would repel Republican challengers. That was then. In the last quarter, Republican challengers surpassed Democratic incumbents in fundraising.
More important, the campaigns have been aided by an unprecedented wave of independent expenditures—over $150 million and rising, the vast bulk spent on attack ads against besieged Democrats. Many of these contributions are anonymous, made to nonprofit institutions that don't have to reveal their donors. Karl Rove, infamous as George Bush's political "brain," has essentially displaced the Republican National Committee with his American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS organizations, claiming that they will dispense over $50 million into the elections.
This flood of conservative money isn't an accident. As a clarifying article by Eric Lichtblau in the New York Times detailed, conservatives—led by Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell, the "Darth Vader of campaign finance"—have systematically sought to dismantle the post-Watergate efforts to limit the impact of money in politics, and to curb secret donations.
They've linked legislative obstruction with litigation, placed conservative zealots on regulatory agencies to block enforcement of the laws and propagated the ideological distortion that money is speech. Aided by the reactionary majority on the Supreme Court, the conservative drive has effectively shredded much of the financial arms control of the post-Watergate period. As Lichtblau reported, conservatives acknowledge their purpose: the more money in politics, the better the party of the monied class—the Republicans—is likely to fare.
Read Katrina's full column at WashingtonPost.com.