Monday, August 15, 2016

Big Money Largely Controls Electoral Politics-- The Evidence


Campaign finance reform should be relatively easy... instead of virtually impossible. But the big money forces that dominate American politics have muddied the waters about the impact of Big Money in politics and voters are, as usual, confused and unsure what to think. Is Big Money bad for democracy? Bernie supporters certainly think so. Trump backers may believe so (unless they are told to believe something else). Hillary backers may even think so, even though she is the quintessential big money recipient candidate. Broadly speaking the two establishment parties are in favor of unlimited flows of big money into politics-- the Democrats surreptitiously do, the Republicans openly-- and the parties grassroots seem less comfortable about it. Lynn Parramore, writing for, presented the evidence from political scientist Thomas Ferguson that proves how Big Money shapes U.S. politics, weakening it. Ferguson, she wrote "has spent a career setting the record straight with clear empirical evidence in a field where such research has been shockingly rare. Ever since his 1995 book Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition blasted through received academic wisdom by showing how wealthy individuals and businesses strategically invest in political parties for the biggest pay off, Ferguson has been the man to seek when you really wanted to know how elections work and who controls them. White collar criminologist William K. Black and others still recall Ferguson’s famous warning, issued long before the nominating convention in 2008, that the contributions from big finance piling up in Barack Obama’s campaign war chest meant that his promises of sweeping reforms of finance were not to be believed. In 2014, he foresaw the unraveling of America’s two major political parties and predicted that voters feeling betrayed would increasingly abandon both."

Since then, Ferguson, working with researchers, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen, has "tracked the generous funding of Obama by high tech businesses engaged in spying on the American public and the waves of money from polluters into the Republican Party." Today they're watching how Big Money impacts congressional elections and they have come up with a stark, clear conclusion: "there is strong, direct link between what the major political parties spend and the percentage of votes they win-- far stronger than all the airy dismissals of the role of money in elections would ever lead you to think, and certainly stronger than anything you read in your political science class." It's why I'm always warning progressives that when the DCCC spends tens of millions of dollars bolstering reactionaries like Patrick Murphy, ACollin Peterson, Ami Bera and other Blue Dogs and New Dems, while starving grassroots and populist candidates, they are shaping the Democratic Party itself-- and in a very, very bad way with severe consequences. Yesterday, Tim Canova embarrassed Debbie Wasserman Schultz, one of Congress' worst examples of a politician willing to sell herself to greedy corporate interests, into debating. Watching her it was easy to see what she resisted a public debate and why she has refused to do any others. No one who watched her shallow, shady performance could possibly think of reelecting her. While Canova spoke eloquently of rejecting corporate contributions and driving Big Money out of politics, Wasserman Schultz refused to admit she had made a mistake by selling her influence to the private prison industry and she actually said she is said "proud" to have the massive support she gets from the Wall Street banksters and the predatory payday lenders who target her own South Florida constituents. She didn't get the nickname #DebtTrapDebbie for nothing.

Since coming to Congress, she's taken $2,015,164 from Wall Street

What Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Chen proved though was that in general "when the Democrats spend more than Republicans, their candidates win. When Republicans spend more than Democrats, they win... Democrats and Republicans candidates’ share of the vote was correlated, to an astonishing degree, with the amount money spent in the campaign."
Political scientists have long had way out of admitting the implications for democracy of such a direct a relationship between politics and money: the idea that the wealthy tend to spend on the most popular Congressional candidates. Their “influence,” the thinking goes, is thus nothing more than a reflection the will of the people. They don’t force any outcome other than the one that voters would choose. Political scientists call this idea “reciprocal causality.” ... The researchers find that while reciprocal causation happens, its extent is not large: money‘s effect is direct and powerful.
In 1994, for example, "a huge wave of money swept the Republicans to victory in that election producing a big change in the electoral outcome, just as a money-driven 'investment theory' of political parties would predict... [T]he notion that right wing politics in America has been driven by donations piling up from eccentric entrepreneurs like investor and conservative mega-donor Foster Friess-- the sort of people who are widely imagined to populate the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans-- rather than mainline big business corporations, such as those on the Fortune 500 list.
On the contrary, the researchers find that “a simple count of firms and investors on Forbes show that the largest American corporations support Tea Party Congressional candidates and organizations supporting the movement, such as Freedom Works, at much higher rates than Forbes 400 members. Even making due allowances for Dark Money, the difference is substantial.”

Evidently American big business firms are not centrist, as many pundits would have it. As Ferguson and his colleagues put it:

“Stories that the steady rightward drift of the American political universe is somehow the work of exceptionally ideological individual entrepreneurs are huge over-simplifications. If the center is not holding in American society-- and it rather plainly is not-- America’s largest companies are as implicated as anyone else; indeed, perhaps more so.”

This state of affairs explains why economic inequality has grown into a crisis, with social unrest amplified by economic distress. Because of this money-driven system-- which has been getting worse since 1970s up to the current dysfunctional mess-- when the rich don’t feel like paying taxes, we all suffer. Infrastructure collapses, schoolchildren and sick people suffer, and hard-working citizens are robbed of their fair share of the country’s prosperity and end their lives struggling keep body and soul together.

Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Chen conclude:
“It goes without saying that this news is not reassuring; particularly in elections below the federal level-- in states and local elections, we suspect, money has come to dominate outcomes to a frightening degree, not least because it is unlikely that the Republican advantage is offset there to the degree that it has been in recent federal elections. If it turns out that the U.S. has entered a Post-Democratic age, the situation will not be improved by social scientists behaving like ostriches. It is time economics, political science, and history recognize the reality of industrial and financial blocs within parties and acknowledge money‘s powerful effects on elections.”
If mainstream social scientists are not pursuing the truth, what exactly are they pursuing? Whatever it is, it does not appear to be good for democracy.

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At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Exit 135 said...

Democrats see "big vulnerabilities" in their favorite candidate to replace U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy on the Treasure Coast, according to a leaked memo made available over the weekend....


Randy Perkins became a Democrat in 2016, seeking to pollute this poorly represented district since the days of Mark Foley, Tim Mahoney, Tom Rooney, Patrick Murphy.

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Ruben Chandler said...

Ovot=Hilbot.................CIA sock puppets


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