Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blue America Welcomes Back Our Old Friend Ann Kuster


Annie's campaign is financed by actual people, not Romney people, not corporate special interests looking for government handouts

Today at 11am (PT), so 2 back East, Blue America will formally endorse Ann McLane Kuster for Congress, as we did in 2010. Digby will be leading a discussion at Crooks and Liars that will emphasize Annie's progressive philosophy of governance, contrasting it with the corrupt, failed conservatism of her rubber-stamp opponent, Charlie Bass. As Digby pointed out in a letter to Blue America donors on Thursday morning, "On election night 2010, when progressives around the country were pummeled and defeated, one race kept us all up late, hoping against hope that we'd have a memorable victory among the defeats. As it turned out New Hampshire's 2nd Congressional District candidate Ann McLane Kuster lost to Charlie Bass that night by only a few votes, but showed that even in a GOP tsunami she had what it took to compete as a progressive." Bass has been amassing a campaign war chest hand over first.
He's collecting money from all the usual suspects, notably energy and insurance companies who have business in front of the energy and commerce committee [on which he serves], along with practically every other lobbyist from tobacco to Walmart. It didn't take him long to put his hand out and start collecting the big bucks from the corporations and the 1%.

By contrast Annie has had over 11,000 individual donations, 90% of which are under a hundred dollars.

Bass has gotten an eye-popping 72% of his campaign funds from corporate PACs. Clearly they've bought themselves another sleazy congressman. As Digby notes, Kuster's campaign money has overwhelmingly come from individuals: 90% of it from donors giving less than $100 each, Blue America-type donors. If you haven't joined in yet, please consider doing so here. The average contribution has been around $45. Most people give around $20.

Does it work? Can small amounts of grassroots money make the difference? We've seen it work in the past when we helped ensure victories for grassroots candidates like Donna Edwards, Alan Grayson, Paul Hodes, John Hall, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley, Bruce Braley, Carol Shea-Porter and Steve Cohen, to name a few. Earlier this week, NPR's Kai Ryssdal hosted a Marketplace show premised around the question to campaign finance author Steve Dubner, Does Money Really Buy Elections? It was right after Romney's big, albeit predictable win in the New Hampshire GOP primary on the back of the $50 million in campaign money he vacuumed up in 2011.
DUBNER: [I]n previous campaigns that he’s run for senator, governor and president, Romney’s spent $54 million of his own money. But you know who else put a lot of money into their campaigns? Let me give you a few, uh, lovely names: Steve Forbes, Linda McMahon, Meg Whitman. And you know what? None of them won anything, did they?

RYSSDAL: OK, so this is the hidden-side-of-everything part, is that where we’re going here?

DUBNER: This is the hidden side of everything. Here’s what I want to tell you today, Kai: Money does not buy elections. At least nowhere near what we’ve always been told. Here’s Steve Levitt, my Freakonomics co-author. He once conducted a study of congressional elections, where he tried to isolate the effect of campaign spending from all the other factors:

Steve LEVITT: When a candidate doubled their spending, holding everything else constant, they only got an extra one percent of the popular vote. It’s the same if you cut your spending in half, you only lose one percent of the popular vote. So we’re talking about really, really large swings in campaign spending with almost trivial changes in the vote.

RYSSDAL: All right, here’s the thing: Steve Levitt, very nice guy, knowledgeable economist… sadly though, I don’t believe him. Cause if you look, it’s always the guy with the most money who wins.

DUBNER: You’re right; it is almost always the guy with the most money who wins. That is what we know as correlation without cause. So let me explain: When it’s raining out, everybody’s got an umbrella, we know that. Those things are correlated. But you know what, the umbrellas don’t cause the rain, we know that too. Here’s the thing: Winning an election and raising money do go together, but it doesn’t seem as though money actually causes the winning either. It’s just that the kind of candidate who’s attractive to voters also ends up, along the way, attracting a lot of money and the losing candidate, nobody wants to give money to that guy.

RYSSDAL: Right, it makes sense, but what happens when you tell politicians this? I mean, this is a message they don’t want to hear, right?

DUBNER: Yeah. No politician’s going to step forward and say, “Please don’t send me your money. I do not want it. I will not use it.” You know, look, campaign fundraising has become an arms race, and as in any arms race, the first casualty is logic, right? But let’s look past new Hampshire and back to Iowa last week. Here’s some good evidence for these politicians. Rick Perry spent $4.3 million on advertising there-- nearly triple what Romney spent-- and got only 10 percent of the vote. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, spent only $30,000 for ads in Iowa, and he lost to Romney by just eight votes. So, so much for the money argument.

RYSSDAL: All right, so far this is a lot of you talking about politicians and money-- did you actually talk to any politicians about money?

DUBNER: Well, you think they’re going to come out and say, “Nah, I don’t need the money.” I did find one former politician. At least he says he’s former. You remember Rudy Giuliani, I gather, yeah?

RYSSDAL: I do: twice the mayor of New York City and for like five minutes in 2008, the front-runner.

DUBNER: That’s right. Well, I asked him if money buys elections:

RUDY GIULIANI: So campaign spending doesn’t mean anything, because you can spend it incorrectly. I have lost an election by spending it wrong. I won an election, my first election that I won, I won when I was outspent $16 million to $2 million, in a Republican primary. We can see recently in Mike Bloomberg’s election. Mike Bloomberg spent $100 million dollars! And he won by 4 percent!

DUBNER: So I asked Giuliani what advice he would give to candidates:

GIULIANI: I tell candidates, it’s always better to be the candidate with the most money, but you can win without it.

RYSSDAL: So to finish the sentence, it’s better to be the candidate with the most money because that means you’re the most popular, right? People like you the best.

DUBNER: That’s exactly right. It’s like saying it’s better to be the radio show host with the most money, but really, what you want to be is the most popular.

This year Blue America is backing a pretty big slate of blue-collar working-class candidates running against plutocrats like Fred Upton in Michigan (heir to the Whirlpool fortune) or craven servants of the one percent like Bass. Come by the C&L chat today and hear what Annie Kuster has to say herself. And please, if you can... even $5 and $10 contributions make a difference in the battle against the corporate special interests. Here's our House candidates page, where we're just getting started with Annie's campaign.



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