The .0000063% Election
At a time when itâs become a clichĂ© to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nationâs political conversationâdrawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99 percentâelectoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1 percent. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063 percent. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80 percent of the money raised by super-PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.
These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Courtâs 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, super-PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice theyâre just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability.
If 2008 was the year of the small donor, when many political pundits (myself included) predicted that the fusion of grassroots organizing and cyberactivism would transform how campaigns were run, then 2012 is âthe year of the big donor,â when a candidate is only as good as the amount of money in his super-PAC. âIn this campaign, every candidate needs his own billionaires,â wrote Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.