For all the anger and intensity of feeling on display, this election will turn on money. An enormous tsunami of money! Shills and pundits are out screaming about the opponents/proponents of truth, light, Apple Pie, The Constitution and Jesus. Polls tell us that the public is enraged by the breadth and depth of economic pain. All this is true, valid and interesting. Lost in many analyses is the simple fact that 2010 marks another step toward the complete privatization of America’s election process. What we know, whom we identify with, and how we choose, will be more defined by unregulated private spending than ever before in modern history. We have privatized our election cycle.
Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission drastically altered the role of private interest groups and money in American politics. We don’t have public funding of campaigns and we have removed historical restriction on private candidate and issue advocacy. The spending of money to elect or defeat candidates by private groups — foreign and domestic — is the new law of the land. Thus, the results that you are either eagerly awaiting, or dreading, will be results from a new type of selection/election process. Open Secrets estimates that we will see the 2010 Midterms cost over $3.7 billion. This is a 30% increase over the record spending we saw in the 2006 Midterms. Our pay to play political system has become a pay more to play more system in the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions. Do you really believe that special interest groups would spend 30% more in a weak economy for the same or lesser control over federal rules? Do you really believe that individuals, corporations, unions and foreign entities would spend nearly $4billion and not expect anything in return?
Open Secrets wisely points out that incumbents — about as popular as canker sores — will win 90% of races. The Center for Responsive Politics tells us that House incumbents have raised an average of $1.4 million and their challengers have raised an average of just less than $600,000. $800,000 advantages are often powerful. Senate incumbents have raised an average of over $11 million and their challengers are armed with just over $4million. $7 million advantages are nice to have. Four conservative groups will be the four largest outside spenders in this cycle and will deploy over $93million in support of various conservative candidates/positions. Over a quarter of a billion dollars in special interest group money will be deployed. Outside money will either close gaps, or increase them, according to the private and often secret desires/needs/priorities that may not be revealed in election filings.
No matter who wins and who loses, we have decided to let unaccountable money select our political representatives. This is a far older problem and will likely outlast both Tea Party influence and the Obama Administration.
Anyone who takes seriously the idea of taking the country back must start by rolling back the privatization of the political process. Any candidate or movement that supports the present orgy of cash lubricated special interest violation of the public should have the decency to refrain from moral argument and silence claims to represent the little people.
This article originally appeared on The Huffington Post.