Saturday, November 13, 2010

Following The Money... Sometimes Right Down A Congressional Rabbit Hole


Veteran populist Democrat Marcy Kaptur won her 15th House term on November 2, although she was outspent 4 to 1 by her opponent, Boehner crony and GOP Nazi Rich Iott. Iott was one of 15 Republicans who spent over a million dollars of his own in this election cycle. Only 4 of the big-spending Republicans won seats-- Rick Scott (FL- $75,000,000 or $29/vote), Scott Rigell (VA- $2,424,364 or $28/vote), Bill Flores (TX- $1,061,224, $10/vote, and Ron Johnson ($8,238,465, $7/vote). The rest, like Iott, lost, including Linda McMahon, who spent $46,600,161 of her own cash ($95/vote) and Meg Whitman, who burned through an eye-popping $175,000,000 ($57/vote). Iott's investment amounted to $20/vote.

In all Iott raised $1,893,012 to Kaptur's $529,047 (although she still has over $800,000 in her campaign chest for next time). Other than the money Boehner and Boehner's personal PAC gave Iott, virtually all of it came right out of his own bank account. When he isn't running around in an SS Panzer uniform-- or defending Nazis as "freedom fighters" on CNN-- Iott, a college dropout who inherited his adoptive parents' grocery store chain, is a passive investor in a variety of businesses, from making salsa to making films.

In 2008-- in a district where Obama beat McCain 62-36%-- Kaptur captured 74% against a less well-financed-- and less controversial-- Republican than Iott, Brad Leavitt (who also lost to her in 2006 by the same margin). In 2006 the final tally was 149,886 to 53,803. Then in the presidential election year the totals shot up to 222,054 to 76,512. This year, with a very motivated Republican base nationwide-- and a lot of press coverage over the Nazi stuff-- Iott's total went way beyond the GOP totals in 2006 or 2008 to 81,876, while Kaptur's vote plummeted to 117,890. But in a district that Democratic even that amount of money couldn't propel Iott to victory, especially not after the nazi story broke big.

The other big-spending House candidates had varied results. Car dealer Tom Ganley spent more and also had a personal scandal, when two women reported that he sexually molested them. One, a campaign volunteer and devout Christian right-wing mother of four, is suing him for attempted rape. His $2,213,417 (out of $2,646,969 raised-- $29/vote, as it turns out) didn't do him much good either, even though it was about double what incumbent Betty Sutton spent. In 2006 Sutton won-- in an open seat-- with 129,290 votes (61%) to 81,997 against a wing-nut who got 81,997 votes. Two years later-- with Obama beating McCain 57-24% in the district-- Sutton beat another Republican 189,542 (65%) to 104,066 (35%). This year all Ganley's millions couldn't save him from the rape scandal and the big GOP enthusiasm surge only brought him 92,608 votes (45%), not enough despite a very significant drop off in Democratic turnout (115,331), similar to what we saw nationally as the Democratic base gave its own confused party a big thumbs down.

The two million-dollar-plus Republicans who did win, were both in more GOP-friendly territory. Scott Rigell spent $2,757,983 and $2,424,364 came from his own personal wealth. Blue Dog Glenn Nye, who worked very, very hard to turn off the Democratic base in his district for the past two years, voting far more frequently with the Republicans than with the Democrats on key issues, only spent $1,583,453. (The DCCC spent another $788,447.63 on negative TV ads against Rigell.) Nye won the seat in 2008 from GOP backbencher Thelma Drake 141,857 (52%) to 128,486 (48%), Obama beating McCain 51-49% in a district Bush won by healthy margins against both Gore and Kerry. This year only half of Nye's voters bothered coming to the polls for him (70,306) and he only managed 43%, many Democrats correctly understanding that he was working for the same corporate interests that the Republicans work for against their families and completely unworthy of their votes.

The other big GOP self-funder running for a House seat who won was Bill Flores in a very red Texas district between Dallas and Houston that the GOP has been trying to win for years. Although Democratic presidential candidates don't even get one-third of the vote here, conservative Chet Edwards was reelected in 2006 93,198 (58%) to 64,617 (40%) and in 2008 134,592 (53%) to 115,581 (45%). This year, Flores successfully deployed his cash to capitalize on Republican enthusiasm and Democratic lack of enthusiasm. It was a slaughter, Edwards only getting 62,926 votes (36%) to Flores' 106,275 (62%). This is now a safe Republican seat. Flores spent almost exactly what Edwards did-- $2,537,226 (1,061,224 from his own pockets) to $2,533,771. But Edwards was one of the 39 conservative Democrats voting against the healthcare reform bill, helping to guarantee an anemic turnout among base Democratic voters. His overall ProgressivePunch score on contentious, substantive issues was 53.28 this session, meaning he voted with the Democrats about the same number of times he voted with the Republicans, a strategy that worked for him in past years, but not this time when Fox and Hate Talk radio had Republican voters riled up and looking for blood and many Democratic voters felt they had no reason to bother voting. A flood of outside money on behalf of Flores plus his own cash doomed Edwards and ended his congressional career permanently.

Here's some George Carlin to think about today. But whatever conclusions you come to-- and you're free to come to any, of course-- personally I don't think any Wall Street executives (or the politicians they own), should be executed without fair, speedy trials first:

UPDATE: Frank Rich Wants To Know Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?

Rich has a great column in the Sunday Times and I'll take a few excerpts in the hope you'll want to click the link and read the whole thing.
In the aftermath of the Great Democratic Shellacking of 2010, one election night subplot quickly receded into the footnotes: the drubbing received by very wealthy Americans, most of them Republican, who tried to buy Senate seats and governor’s mansions. Americans don’t hate rich people. They admire and often idolize success. But Californians took a hearty dislike to Meg Whitman, who sacrificed $143 million of her eBay fortune-- not to mention her undocumented former housekeeper-- to a gubernatorial race she lost by double digits. Connecticut voters K.O.’d the World Wrestling groin-kicker, Linda McMahon, and West Virginians did likewise to the limestone-and-steel magnate John Raese, the senatorial hopeful who told an interviewer without apparent irony, “I made my money the old-fashioned way-- I inherited it.”

To my mind, these losers deserve a salute nonetheless. They all had run businesses that actually created jobs (Raese included). They all wanted to enter public service to give back to the country that allowed them to prosper. And by losing so decisively, they gave us a ray of hope in dark times. Their defeats reminded us that despite much recent evidence to the contrary the inmates don’t always end up running the asylum of American politics.

The wealthy Americans we should worry about instead are the ones who implicitly won the election-- those who take far more from America than they give back. They were not on the ballot, and most of them are not household names. Unlike Whitman and the other defeated self-financing candidates, they are all but certain to cash in on the Nov. 2 results. There’s no one in Washington in either party with the fortitude to try to stop them from grabbing anything that’s not nailed down.

The Americans I’m talking about are not just those shadowy anonymous corporate campaign contributors who flooded this campaign. No less triumphant were those individuals at the apex of the economic pyramid-- the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground. The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007-- up from less than 9 percent in 1976. During the boom years of 2002 to 2007, that top 1 percent’s pretax income increased an extraordinary 10 percent every year. But the boom proved an exclusive affair: in that same period, the median income for non-elderly American households went down and the poverty rate rose.

It’s the very top earners, not your garden variety, entrepreneurial multimillionaires, who will be by far the biggest beneficiaries if there’s an extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts for income over $200,000 a year (for individuals) and $250,000 (for couples). The resurgent G.O.P. has vowed to fight to the end to award this bonanza, but that may hardly be necessary given the timid opposition of President Obama and the lame-duck Democratic Congress.

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At 12:21 PM, Blogger Kay Dennison said...

Isn't interesting how being a good Congresswoman who actually HELPS and fights for her constituents can get elected in the midst of all this insanity? The people of NW Ohio are to be congratulated. And yeah, I'm thinking of moving back there.


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