It's the money, stupid

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If you want to know what American politics looks like in a post-Citizens United world, check out the June 5 elections.

It's not that this specific court case played a role in all of the key races -- the tobacco industry could have spent $47 million to defeat a cigarette tax with or without Citizens United -- but around the country, you saw the role that big money played in literally altering the political landscape.

Take Wisconsin. The national news media twist on this will call it a test of Obama's field campaign and a referendum on labor, but it was really all about money. Walker and his big-biz allies raised $30 million, a lot of it through barely-regulated super PACs, and outspent Tom Barrett by more than 7-1.

In California, Prop. 29, which would have put a $1 tax on each pack of cigarettes to pay for cancer research, was way ahead in the polls, and I was pretty sure it was going to win handily -- how can you vote against a tax on a product that kills people to fund a cure for the disease it causes? Prop. 29 had a 30-point lead a couple of months ago.

Then came the blitz -- $47 million in TV ads, funded by a couple of big tobacco companies. The ads were classics of the type -- misdirection and confusion aimed at getting people to vote No. And it worked: Prop. 29 is going down to a narrow defeat.

In San Francisco, Prop A, with little money and not much of a campaign, never had a serious chance. But the flood of Recology money made sure it never got even 25 percent of the vote (although if you asked people, outside of the campaign, whether the garbage contract should be put out to bid, most of them would say yes).

I think Recology money had an impact on the Democratic County Central Commitee, too; Recology paid for a lot of slate cards that promoted a lot of more moderate candidates. The company also paid for progressive slate cards (the Milk Club etc.), and I haven't counted them all, but in the end, slate cards matter in the DCCC and they may have made the difference.

The local election was so low-turnout that it's hard to draw any serious conclusions from it. But overall, money carried the day June 5 -- and that's a scary message.

 

Comments

Nobody could have watched a Prop 29 TV ad and somehow not understood that the tobacco companies were not blowing their own horn. Are you seriously suggesting that voters are so dumb that a few obviously biased ad's can completely change their minds? If so, you probably shouldn't believe in democracy at all, since clearly the voters cannot be trusted to vote the way you would like them too.

Of course, I never met a liberal who didn't have a ready-made list of excuses for every loss and, let's face it, they have plenty of experience of losing. So let me save you some time. Liberals only ever lose elections because:

1) There was election fraud
2) The election was bought by big business
3) Voter turnout was low so there really is no mandate

Hey, did I miss any excuse out?

God forgive that one day you might come here and admit that you were on the wrong side of public opinion and that you accept the result in good faith. What would it take for you to stop being the world's crappiest loser? Surely not more practice?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:29 pm

I'm a non-smoking moderate, and I agree with you 100%.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

So you think Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds tobacco spend $50 million for no reason? They just like to waste their money?

Of course they spent that money to buy an election result. And for no other reason.

Deceptive ads from Big Tobacco were everywhere. Very clever; almost all of the lies in them would require a few minutes to explain why they were lies. And Prop. 29 opponents couldn't afford a few minutes; all they could afford was 30 second spots. And even those 30 second spots were drowned out 10 to 1 by Big Tobacco's slick, lying, ads.

So it's not about stupid voters; it's about a massive disinformation campaign. It succeeded.

Posted by Jon on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 2:56 pm

promulgation of information that countered the claims of those who thought this tax was a good idea. What else would you expect?

But I actually learned a lot from those ad's, including the fact that CA taxpayers might be subsidizing jobs in other States - who would vote for that?

But more than that, narrowly-based taxes are always a bad idea. If we have to have tax hikes, and I am far from convinced that we do, then they have to be as broad-based as possible. And should not favour some behaviors more than others.

Taxes are for raising revenue, not for punishing sin.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:05 pm

If by "promulgation" you mean "outshouting", and if you mean by "information" you mean "outrageous distortions and out and out lies".

Let's not pretend things were any other way.

Posted by Jon on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 3:50 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 4:39 pm

Tim, I am a non-smoking liberal.

I vote against almost all bond measures (school bonds aside) because they steer tax revenues into pet causes, thus giving the legislature no wiggle-room to make policy.

If the cigarette taxes were destined for the General Fund, I would have toed in favor.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 2:52 pm

Wrong, wrong, WRONG. You love smacking smokers with more taxes because you don't smoke and you don't like smoking. But public disapproval is a very poor basis for tax policy and the evidence on the linkage between second-hand smoke and cancer rates is weak to the point of being non-existent. Cancer impacts everyone - not just smokers. So why should they have to pay the majority of the burden because YOU don't like their habit?

Certain locales are now taxing strip bars and porn shops for domestic violence services, despite there never being a demonstrated linkage between the two. Are you a fan of that as well Tim? Where does that end? Mississippi hikes fees on abortions because of this false science showing a link between abortion and breast cancer - is that cool with you too?

Posted by Troll II on Jun. 06, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

It is never your opponent's fault when you lose an election. All politics left of right has been coopted by the Democrat Party and the constellation of corruption that orbits that political black hole.

Corporate power will continue to wax until those institutions that check political resistance to corporate imperative are rendered inoperative in that regard.

Posted by marcos on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 7:49 am

Of course, when unions spend millions trying to influence elections, it's democracy in its purest form, at least according to Tim. It was a beautiful thing to see Scott Walker upend the public-sector trough that liberals feed from. Again.

Posted by Chromefields on Jun. 07, 2012 @ 8:29 am