Monday, November 29, 2010

The Inside The Beltway Corruption Beat, 1.5

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Van Hollen & Israel-- smooth transition expected

If you follow DWT with any regularity, you probably know that since September we've been looking into how the DCCC, and to a lesser extent, the other Inside-the-Beltway party committees, decide how to allocate the funds they've collected from contributions. Last Tuesday we finally published the first installment, Have Contributions From Donors Been Finding Their Way Into DCCC Officials' Pockets? Several threats of law suits followed.

What we're trying to get at is how it is determined that some candidates get than a million dollars in independent expenditures on their behalf or, more commonly, against their opponents and why others-- including incumbents and including some who were polling as well, or as badly, as the ones who got help, got nothing at all or got inconsequential help. My preconception was that it had to do with the same old Rahm Emanuel era ideological war against progressives and that the DCCC was, once again, helping Blue Dogs and conservative Democrats rather than any candidates with grassroots (independent) backing. But that hypothesis, while still apparent, didn't explain all the activities fully. What seems to is even scarier. And that has to do with corruption, revolving doors and a look at who inside the DCCC--it's the same story with the DSCC, the RNCC and the RNSC-- actually has financial and proprietary interests in the consulting firms that were getting all the business.

Yesterday Kim Geiger and Matea Gold published a story in the L.A. Times, Election Tone Was Anti-incumbent, But Old Pros Handled The Cash, that ever so slightly brushed up against the DWT investigation and which I urge everyone to read. Disappointingly Geiger and Gold seemed to dismiss the commissions earned by the consulting firms as "a small percentage," neglecting to mention that the small percentage amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Now that's real money and anyone who follows the money in DC knows that real money always brings on real corruption. The word "corruption" wasn't used once-- or even implied-- anywhere in the L.A. Times story. No one's nose will be out of joint.
An analysis of campaign finance records and data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics found that 15 firms raked in more than $400 million just from the candidates, party committees and outside groups that advertised in federal elections.

"Especially when it comes to television advertising … it's dominated by a few key players and a few key firms," said Erica Fowler, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks advertising in federal elections. "Key actors on both sides are going to go to the known quantities to place those advertisements."

Much of that money was used to purchase airtime on local television stations, the firms said, noting that media buyers typically earn a small percentage as a commission or fee.

"We had a lot of the hot races and we did very well, but the vast majority of that money-- and I mean virtually all of it-- is going to pay the television stations," said Jim Margolis, a partner at GMMB, a Democratic political consulting and advertising firm. "Consequently, it is a complete distortion to think in any way, shape or manner that is all income to GMMB."

The air war resembled an arms race, with both Republican and Democratic campaigns frantically pumping more money into advertising to keep up with their competitors.

In all, candidates and political committees spent an estimated $3 billion airing television, radio and Internet commercials in local, state and federal races, up from $2.7 billion in 2008 and $2.4 billion in 2006, according to Campaign Media Analysis Group, a division of Kantar Media that tracks political advertising.

About two-thirds of the money-- an estimated $2 billion-- was used to purchase airtime from local television stations.

An examination of the volume of business handled by media firms with the highest total revenue for federal elections produced a list of operatives who probably benefited the most from this year's buying spree.

The top-grossing media shop was GMMB, which took in at least $112 million for advertising in federal campaigns. Three prominent Democratic Party committees-- the congressional and senatorial campaign committees and the Democratic Governors Assn.-- sent their business to the Georgetown-based firm, as did California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Experienced GOP media consultants also raked in a large share. Topping the list were National Media Research Planning & Placement, an Alexandria, Va.-based firm that handled advertising for George W. Bush's 2004 presidential campaign, and Mentzer Media, a Towson, Md.-based firm headed by Bruce Mentzer, who has placed more than $300 million in ads since 1985.

Also on the Republican side was Crossroads Media, a media-placement firm that took in close to $40 million in ad buys for clients that included American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, advocacy groups cofounded earlier this year by Republican strategist Karl Rove.

Patti Heck, president of Crossroads Media, said the firm took in more than the approximately $40 million that was disclosed in federal campaign finance reports, but she declined to specify how much.

In the end, though, "it was the television stations that benefited the most," Heck said. "I would say they were the real winners."

Heck said her firm-- founded in 2001 by conservative activist Michael Dubke-- is not affiliated with the other two Crossroads groups. She dismissed the similar names as coincidental. However, Carl Forti, political director at American Crossroads, worked with Dubke to form another firm, the Black Rock Group. Crossroads Media and the Black Rock Group share the same Alexandria, Va., address, according to their websites.

Television stations have unquestionably been the winners-- and that's something legislators looking into campaign finance reform need to address -- but that doesn't mean the revolving door warriors who work in the party committees and who own stakes in the consultancies they hire and recommend the campaigns hire aren't also ... winners. They are, year after year after year. And they can even win -- and win big -- when the party they're supposed to be working for loses and loses big.

Below is a depiction of just a small part of what's going on in Washington but do notice that Abramoff admits having bribed at least 20 Members of Congress. He's in jail... but, with one exception, they're not.



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1 Comments:

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Suzan said...

I know I've thought to myself more than several times, having seen this same type of information, that Abramoff must have just been the sparkly light used to take our attention off of the others.

I mean how did he get caught and Rove didn't?

What do you think?

I think it's always a CIA connection and they are told "National Security concerns!" when they try to go after the real guilty parties.

And you'd think such "smart" guys would be smarter than let this slip, wouldn't you?

Or does it matter anymore?

Crossroads Media and the Black Rock Group share the same Alexandria, Va., address, according to their websites.

S

 

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