Every week brings more news of the growing Republican advantage in raising money and spending it on advertising.
The most widely discussed donation this week was the $10 million gift from casino mogul Sheldon Adelson to the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future. As The New Republic’s Alec MacGillis notes, “For Barack Obama’s campaign to match the $10 million, it would need to get checks from 181,818 donors giving at the average Obama donation amount of $55.” The scary thing about Adelson’s donation is not even its massive size; it’s the fact that Adelson could give much more. Adelson had said he was willing to give his initially favored candidate, Newt Gingrich, up to $100 million. He could easily afford to give Romney far more than that. As Forbes pointed out, “Adelson is worth $24.9 billion.… Given that he’s one of the 15 richest people in the world, the Sands chairman could personally bankroll the equivalent of entire presidential campaign—say, $1 billion or so—and not even notice. (The $10 million donation he just made to Romney is equivalent to $40 for an American family with a net worth of $100,000.)” Indeed, since he has said that this is the most important presidential election of his lifetime, it makes sense that he would.
Democrats have little power to combat this disproportionate influence given to the very wealthy. The best they can do is try to explain to the public that Republicans receiving such generosity from individuals like Adelson are effectively in their pockets. “Instead of United States of America, maybe he wants it to be ‘United States of Adelson,’ ” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) on MSNBC. It’s better than nothing, but it’s not better than $10 million.
Meanwhile, continuing a trend I first reported on back in December, Wall Street is investing heavily in the Romney campaign. In 2008 Wall Street finally came to realize that the Republican Party’s habit of irresponsibly mismanaging the economy and budget—and the unwillingness of much of their coalition to do logical things to prevent global economic meltdown, such as lending banks money to boost liquidity—means they are better off with Democrats. They overcame their historical affinity for the GOP and gave more to Obama than McCain. Obama has rewarded them with more bailouts, soft regulation, no prosecution of the malefactors behind the mortgage-backed securities crisis, and extension of the Bush tax cuts. Their way of thanking him has been to donate far more to his opponent, who says he would not have voted to raise the debt ceiling, and thus forced the United States to default on its debts and send the bond markets into a tailspin. Politico reports, “Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and the super PAC supporting it are outraising Obama among financial-sector donors $37.1 million to $4.8 million. Near the front of the pack are 19 Obama donors from 2008 who are giving big to Romney. The 19 have already given $4.8 million to Romney’s presidential campaign and the super PAC supporting it through the end of April, according to a POLITICO analysis of Federal Election Commission filings. Four years ago, they gave Obama $213,700.”
Most of this money is being quickly spent on television commercials. As the Washington Post reports, “Romney’s campaign is spending $3.3 million to run television ads this week in seven general election battleground states. The ads began running Wednesday and will continue through the week in Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia, according to officials who track ad purchases.”
While there is no question that swing-state voters will be inundated with ads that inaccurately portray President Obama’s record, the more significant Republican spending advantage may ultimately be in down-ballot races. While Obama will be outspent by his opponents, he will certainly have enough money to get his message out as well. But in House and Senate races, where spending levels tend to be much lower, an infusion of outside money can give a candidate a real leg up.
And Republicans are already working on giving their candidates that advantage. The Post reports, “The National Republican Congressional Committee has reserved $18 million worth of ad space in 17 media markets spanning 25 competitive districts — one of the first windows into which districts the committee plans to pursue and defend this fall as they seek to retain control of the House.”
Now, thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, there will be a whole other national source of ad spending for Republican Congressional candidates besides the NRCC and its counterpart for Senate races. As Politico reports, “The GOP independent spending goliath American Crossroads and its affiliate group Crossroads GPS are launching a new barrage of attack ads in six competitive Senate races, assailing a range of Democratic candidates.”
The ad attacking Tim Kaine in Virginia is a good example of the kind of dishonesty that pervades ads from Karl Rove’s Crossroads empire. It is based on the bizarre premise that Kaine, a former governor of Virginia, “went to Washington,” when he served as chair of the Democratic National Committee. (Strangely, it shows footage of someone flying to illustrate the point, even though Richmond and Washington are just a few hours apart by car or train.) Kaine was not in a national elected office, and yet the ad blames Kaine for what it considers to be unpopular actions taken by President Obama and Congress. The specific examples? “Medicare spending cuts” and “a huge energy tax.”
The complaint that Democrats cut spending on Medicare is a particularly disingenuous piece of Republican partisan hackery. What they are referring to is the removal of wasteful subsidies to private insurers through the Medicare advantage program. No cuts in actual benefits to Medicare recipients have been enacted. Moreover, it is Republicans, not Democrats, who advocate drastically cutting spending on Medicare, even privatizing it.
It is also not true that Democrats proposed an energy tax. That presumably refers to the cap and trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That was not a tax but a system for buying credits, and it would have fallen equally on all sources of greenhouse gases, not merely energy.
In a perversely hilarious twist, Rove himself went on Sean Hannity’s radio show on Tuesday to accuse President Obama of trying to buy the election. As Media Matters writes, “Rove said that the Obama campaign will attempt to win the election by ‘trying to take their wallet and buying it.’” The election may indeed be bought, but not by Obama.