Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Curse Of Self-Funders Is Undermining Democracy


Democratic Party self-funders JB Pritzker and Gil Cisneros

Reuters began their report on this weekend's parliamentary election in the Czech Republic: "Czech billionaire Andrej Babiš won a thumping victory in Saturday's election as voters shunned traditional parties and gave a mandate to the anti-establishment businessman pledging to fight political corruption while facing fraud charges himself... Babiš has promised to bring his business expertise to government... Drawing comparisons with U.S. President Donald Trump for his business background and anti-establishment message, Babiš has maintained his popularity despite charges he illegally received a 2 million euro EU subsidy when he ran his food, agriculture and chemical empire, worth an estimated $4 billion, before entering politics." Worth noting though, is that this was the first time the country had put a cap on election spending-- 90 million korunas (something like $4.1 million) per party, taking away, at least in part, the personal wealth advantage.

Last week, The Economist looked at the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial election, which they termed a contest between bajillionaires. The candidate Blue America has endorsed, state Senator Daniel Biss, is up against 3 self-funders with bottomless pockets, J.B. Pritzker (D), Bruce Rauner (R) and Chris Kennedy (D). "Though the primary is not until next March," they wrote, "the election to be the next governor of Illinois is already on track to become the most expensive in state political history, overtaking the $280m fight for the governorship of California in 2010 between Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman, a billionaire businesswoman. Election spending in Illinois has increased by 741% this year compared with the same period in the previous election, according to the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, an NGO. The candidates burned through $15.6m in the past three months, led by J.B. Pritzker, a self-funded billionaire businessman running for the Democrats, who splashed out $11.1m, mostly on television advertising, followed by Bruce Rauner, the self-funding Republican incumbent, who spent $2.6m, even though he has not confirmed yet that he is running for re-election. Mr Rauner and Mr Pritzker have so far raised just under $100m between them. In the sort of twist that seems straight from a plot by Armando Iannucci, the lion’s share ($50m) was given by Governor Rauner to a group called Citizens for Rauner. Mr Pritzker gave his campaign a modest $28m."
Though an extreme example, Illinois is no outlier. More and more very wealthy men are running for and winning office as state governors. Tennessee’s Bill Haslam, West Virginia’s Jim Justice, Florida’s Rick Scott, Kentucky’s Matt Bevin, Minnesota’s Mark Dayton, Nebraska’s Peter Ricketts, Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, Michigan’s Rick Snyder, North Dakota’s Doug Burgum and Arizona’s Doug Ducey all have a net worth measured in the tens, and in some cases hundreds, of millions. The richest is Mr Haslam, a multibillionaire whose father founded Pilot Flying J, a chain of petrol stations and convenience stores. Mr Justice, a coal billionaire, is the richest man in the state he governs.

America has had wealthy governors before—think of Nelson Rockefeller and Franklin Roosevelt, both of whom governed New York. But their proliferation is new. In part this simply reflects increasing income disparity in the country, says John Geer of Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. Candidates with little money are disadvantaged by having to spend more time raising funds from donors to whom they are then beholden. One of President Donald Trump’s most popular campaign lines-- that he was too rich to be bought by special interests-- works in state elections too. Given the opacity of money in politics, perhaps voters find self-funding campaigns to be refreshingly transparent.

...How good are self-funding governors at governing? Such candidates often promise to run their states like a business, but their success can depend more on whether they have previous political experience. The pragmatic Mr Haslam is well-liked in Tennessee even by Democrats, and boasts an approval rating of around 60%. He was a two-term mayor of Knoxville before he ran for governor.

Michigan’s Mr Snyder and Illinois’s Mr Rauner, on the other hand, are among the least popular governors. Mr Snyder has not recovered from the public-health crisis caused by lead-contaminated water in Flint. Mr Rauner has been unable to govern effectively with the Democrat-controlled legislature. As a result, the state of Illinois’s finances have gone from critical to catastrophic, with unpaid bills amounting to $15bn and the state paying as much as 10% interest on some of its debt.

In Florida, Mr Scott has not managed to do much of what he promised, such as expanding the state’s economic-development agencies or securing big tax cuts, says Aubrey Jewett of the University of Central Florida. The Republican-controlled legislature still considers him an amateur. He is uncomfortable giving speeches or presiding over public ceremonies. Some newly minted governors have found their first encounters with a hard-nosed political press corps to be a shock. In some cases this makes them less willing to talk, which in turn leads to even less favourable coverage-- a lesson Mr Rauner, who is now more talkative, learned the hard way in Illinois. Private wealth will not be enough to win him re-election next year, especially as Mr Pritzker is much richer.
And if you've been reading DWT for any length of time you're already well-aware that the cancer of self-funders is not just a problem in gubernatorial elections. This link brings you to ten posts about congressional self-funders written over the last 18 months. But it's becoming more and more common to read about candidates-- especially conservative candidates recruited by the DCCC-- to drop immense sums of money into their congressional primaries to drive working and middle class candidates out of the races. Last year it was a miracle that progressive champion Jamie Raskin beat out to especially vile self-funding multimillionaire conservatives in the MD-08 primary. Chris Matthews wife put $606,198 other own money into a race where Matthews was already hitting his MSNBC guests to contribute to his wife. That amounted to nothing compared to the cycle's biggest loser, beer seller David Trone, who put $13,414,225 of his own into the primary race. MD-08 primary voters weren't kind to the 2 wealthy self-funders:
Jamie Raskin- 33.6%
David Trone- 27.1%
Kathleen Matthews- 23.9%
Ana Sol Gutierrez- 5.5%
William Jawando- 4.6%
But Trone isn't finished. He probably noticed that worthless New Dem scumbag John Delaney first won his MD-06 congressional seat by putting $2,370,556 of his own into the race. As soon as he announced he would be running for president and giving up the House seat next year, Trone jumped in, announcing he would spend whatever it takes this time to win the seat. So far he's "only" put in $748,939 of his own... but we still have over a year to go and Maryland political observers expect him to spend between $10 and $15 million of his own. Absolutely devastating for democracy-- and horribly ugly for the Democratic Party, which is being ruined by an influx of conservative multimillionaires. Another candidate in the MD-06 primary, Nadia Hashimi, a pediatrician and best-selling author, has given her campaign $230,700, but she doesn't have the money to compete with Trone.

Let's move across the country to Orange County, where the Democrats are looking at 4 Republican-held congressional districts that Hillary won last year and where every indication shows voters are even worse repulsed by Trump than they were last year. Hillary's biggest victory was in CA-39, a middle class district in the northeast corner of the district that includes slivers of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties as well. Blue America has endorsed progressive Sam Jammal for the seat. But self-funders have been attracted to what looks like an easy district. The latest FEC filings shows 4 candidates with significant self-funding:
Andy Thorburn- $2,000,000
Gil Cisneros- $561,656
Mai-Khanh Tran- $200,000
Phil Janowicz- $112,518
The richest member of Congress is Trump ally Darrell Issa, a career criminal. Voters nearly kicked him out last year and his 2016 opponent, Doug Applegate, expected to beat him easily in 2018. But a bevy of corrupt local multimillionaires led by a shady Pelosi crony, Ira Lechner, put up their own crap candidate, Mike Levin, and started pumping significant money into his campaign. Then a shady real estate investor, a crony of sleazy New Dem Scott Peters, with eye-popping Trump financial connections, Paul Kerr jumped in with $262,728 of his own money. And now there's some young Qualcomm heiress, Sara Jacobs, who doesn't live in the district but who thinks, after working for Hillary as an advisor, it would be fun to be a congresswoman and who is being urged to run in CA-49 by the predatory EMILY's List, which loves nothing on God's green earth more than heiresses with nice big rolodexes.

Fake Dem Omar Siddiqui
Just up the coast in CA-48, Putin's favorite crackpot congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, has attracted at least half a dozen opponents, including several conservative multimillionaires willing to self-fund. New Dem Harley Rouda has given his campaign $230,500. The other New Dem in the race, Hans Keirstead, has only put $55,400 of his own money in so far but DCCC sources say he is willing to stick at least a million dollars of his own into the race if he needs to. Another "Democrat," Omar Siddiqui, an "ex"-Republican who describes himself as a "Reagan-Democrat" and doesn't live in the district, has put in $255,786 so far and a 4th Democrat, Nestle executive Michael Kotick, has given his campaign $130,452. Republican primary challenger Stelian Onufrei has put $200,000 of his own into the race against Rohrabacher to boot. All these big sums is making it hard for the middle class progressive in the race, Laura Oatman to compete in the "money primary."

Other big self-funding Democrats in House races around the country so far (over $100,000 in self-funding):
NY-02- Tim Gomes- $1,000,000
NY-19- Brian Flynn- $685,400
NC-02- Sam Searcy- $480,802
NJ-11- Tamara Harris- $302,300
MN-03- Adam Jennings- $280,805
FL-27- David Richardson- $253,207
NC-02- Ken Romley- $240,000
VA-05- Leslie Cockburn- $203,000
IL-06- Kelly Mazeski- $200,753
WA-03- David McDevitt- $200,000
IL-06- Sean Casten- $180,000
PA-07- Molly Sheehan- $170,000
KS-03- Andrea Ramsey- $138,534
NM-01- Damian Lara- $125,000
NY-19- Dave Clegg- $121,182
NY-11- Omar Vaid- $105,532
NJ-07- Lisa Mandelblatt- $103,931
NY-01- David Pechefsky- $101,100
TX-16- Dori Fenebock- $100,000
And speaking of self-funders, one of the richie-rich guys from Portland just dropped himself into the ME-02 congressional race, Lucas St. Clair, who's mommy, Roxanne Quimby from Burt's Bees, wants her son to have a seat in Congress. This is a rich establishment guy from Portland planning to blanket a working class district with expensive TV ads about himself and his good deeds. Maine's Donor Table will be right on top of it; he's one of them-- an establishment guy with money to burn, who will be the easiest possible target for Bruce Poliquin. Republican John Floyd is laughing already:
[A] seemingly endless amount of southern Maine politicos have been eagerly awaiting another chance to unseat Rep. Bruce Poliquin and push their brand of politics on us in the north. But as Democrat darlings Hillary Clinton and Emily Cain found out-- there is a lot more to Maine’s 2nd district than the liberal echo chamber of downtown Bangor.

St. Clair’s biography page on the Quimby Family Foundation website describes his rearing “in a hand-built log cabin with few amenities”-- a dismal attempt at likening his background to arguably the poorest and hardest working folks in Maine. Sorry, we’re not buying it.

What follows is a litany of educational and professional highlights such as attendance at elite schools and an appointment to the Quimby Family Foundation Board. Nowhere did I see his time spent in the frozen Maine woods swinging a saw, breaking his back in the potato fields of The County or raking blueberries Downeast for day wages. He’s led a charmed life indeed.

St. Clair lives in the city of Portland, not exactly a conservative stronghold. While recently purchasing a home in the district he plans on running in may be a requirement to appear connected to his would be constituents, he will never be mistaken as a stalwart for the outdoorsman by the blue collar conservatives whose traditions and roots run deep here.

What southern Maine Democrats can’t seem to get a handle on is the fact that we make our living up here with our hands, not with our mouth. We earned what we have by hard work, not by handout. We like it that way. We also like our way of living and don’t need another outsider coming north to impose their liberal values on us. How can the entitled son of a left-wing millionaire seriously expect to represent the values, wants and needs of a simple, conservative district? Has he never heard the term ‘carpetbagger’?
Poliquin adviser Brent Littlefield described St. Clair as a dilettante embarking upon “his next life quest” by running for Congress after spending much of his adult life out of the district-- the same criticism Democrats leveled at Poliquin when he ran in 2014. “From being an attempted gourmet chef through his college training in London, to a wine expert in Seattle, to spending his family’s money ignoring the will of local voters, he has moved on to thinking he should be a politician,” Littlefield said. You can see exactly where the attacks will be coming from and what an easy target St. Clair will be in ME-02.
[V]oters of the 2nd Congressional District have increasingly switched allegiances to Republicans, including Poliquin in 2014, Donald Trump in 2016 and a clear majority of legislative races. Poliquin first won the seat, which had been in Democratic hands for two decades, in 2014 as an underdog against Democrat Emily Cain of Orono.

Golden, 34, is viewed as the frontrunner in the Democratic primary. A resident of Lewiston, a Democratic Party stronghold, he was recruited by national Democratic Party groups in part because his status as a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq makes him a formidable opponent for Poliquin in a district where treatment of veterans has been a key issue.

...St. Clair said he was unsure how much of his campaign would be self-financed.

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At 7:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


This reflects 2 things, each of which would be lethal to a healthy society on their own:
1) After 37 years of NOT adequately taxing business and individual earnings (and replacing that revenue with borrowings), there is $22 trillion or so that has been rattling around in rich motherfuckers' investment accounts searching for something to do. MOST of these greedmongers favor finding more lucrative investment products (like all those that caused 2008) but, as is human nature, some will have ambition or a messianic complex that they'll need to pursue.
2) US elections are not based on merit, good ideas and concern for the commons. They're basically dependent upon spending money on media that tell the voters how awful the other guy/party is. American voters are gullible rubes who don't bother with anything beyond the superficial. Name recognition, looks and the effectiveness of the lies they hear are basically all there is to it.

Trump had a name and he got 24 X 7 free media coverage due to his outrageous and moronic tweeting. He won no debates, had no ideas, formed no complete sentences except the one about grabbing pussy. Yet he got out his message of hate and his lies about populism. So southern white racists and red state dumbfucktards were in.
$hillbillary had a long sordid record of evil deeds, lies, corruption and other dubious non-accomplishments, couldn't muster even fake empathy for working people and won her nom by fraud, collusion and rigging the convention so a lot of lefty voters didn't... couldn't.

The wider and deeper the wealth chasm gets, and the dumber and more hopeless the electorate becomes means that the billionaire self-funders will soon be the only candidates we'll ever see again.

And since when were businesses run democratically? VERY soon, the usa SHALL be run like a business... with a despot at the top and servile sociopaths below. Kind of like today's WH and cabinet and R congress. The only thing keeping them from doing everything trump wants is SOME of them are still uncomfortable with killing masses of people. Soon that won't be a consideration any more.

At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Money corrupts, and governance by the corrupt is not a good thing. But what are we to do when corporate money already owns the government? Those with lots of corporate money now seem to feel that being a chief executive of a state or a member of Congress is a status experience that they cannot surpass any other way, such as owning a sports team once satisfied. And think also of how many more people under the control and influence of a governor of a state means to the executive ego when compared to operating a corporation. I'm not yet aware of a corporation which has the same number of employees as does, for instance, Illinois.

The bigger problem is that corporate executives -as Trump has proven repeatedly- don't understand democracy, nor do they see any reason to do so. Corporations are autocratic entities which don't tolerate any form of democratic expression well. This abhorrence of carries over into governance, and by extension into law. It is no wonder that the freedoms of Americans are disappearing!

Totalitarianism is on the rise across the globe, and the connection to corporate economic and political power cannot be denied. Human rights will soon be seen as a quaint relic of a "misguided" historical time, one which strong-man control soon rectified. We have always been at war with human freedom and liberty! Profits uber alles!

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Elizabeth Burton said...

According to most of what I've read the last few years, younger people don't watch/read ads. In other words, the people TV/newspaper ads will reach are old people like me—Boomers. How hard would it be for a true progressive candidate to counter those ads not with other ads but with feet on the ground? Not all that hard, if the success of the various progressives who've won local and state positions since last November is any indication.

The best weapon progressives have is that the establishment has gotten lazy. They rely on media marketing instead of door-to-door sales people. When, time after time, a good candidate loses because the media have essentially blocked them out and so they lack name recognition, it should be clear the best way to counter all that self-bought propaganda is by doing what people like Beto O'Rourke and Derrick Crowe are doing in Texas—get out and TALK to people. It can also be their downfall, because they will have to come into the discussion with something besides "I'm better than the other guy," and I'm not sure they can do that.

At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, the youngers do read what the media writes as well as what putin's horde of tools writes.

You see, shit gets written, then linked to on facefuck and twitsonly and instagraft... even Linkedin. Followers of whoever "likes" whatever get to read it or what their followees say about it. So one Russian lie gets "shared" a million times... and nobody even had to buy a paper or bother to think... you see.

The youngers are more liberal and progressive... but also dumber and more gullible and more eager to follow and less able to think for themselves.

But that does not distinguish them from other demos. All American demos fail miserably to be informed and thoughtful voters.

At 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:09, fine comment. I have no remedies that the condition of our despotic oligarchy and the stupidity of our voters don't thwart easily.

After all, our only two choices are soon to be the Nazis and the neorepublicans led by Pelosi and scummer.


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