Three-quarters of the money spent on behalf of Chris McDaniel’s failed bid for the Republican nomination for Senate in Mississippi came from outside political action committees (PACs). That money, from groups like the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks, accounted for 36 percent of the funds spent by both sides combined.
We’re obviously a few miles down the road from the days when candidates for elected office stood on wooden platforms. But we are perhaps further than you might think. In fact, there is nothing in federal law that would prevent a super PAC or group of PACs from picking out a candidate and taking care of his or her entire campaign. And we’re starting to get a glimpse of what such a campaign might look like.
In order to win an election, you, first, need a candidate. You need to let people know about your candidate, so you need TV ads and radio ads and ads on Facebook. You need direct mail, and you need people to knock on doors and talk to voters. But, really, that’s it. With the right combination of those things, you can win pretty much any political race in the country.
The best campaign research for the opposition is West’s own site, which contains enough toxic conspiracy thinking to drive any normal voter running to anyone but West.
The Tea Party Leadership Fund announced Wednesday that it is doing everything it can to convince Allen West to run again in 2014 for the House of Representatives seat he lost to Democrat Patrick Murphy in the last election.
The political action committee, which has deployed more than $1 million to other tea party candidates around the country, encouraged supporters in a fundraising E-mail to donate to the effort and sign a “Draft Allen West” petition “so that he knows just how loud the call is by ‘We the People’ to have his voice back in his service.” The leadership fund cited Larry Sabato’s rating of Patrick Murphy as “most vulnerable” Democrat as motivation.
And Revive America, the super PAC that ran ads in support of West’s failed recount effort, says it would also contribute money to this effort. “Revive America PAC has always supported Allen West, and we will continue to do so,” founder Bob Adams tells Whispers.
Get out the popcorn
Former Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., announced Tuesday that he is forming a super PAC “to support freedom-loving conservative alternatives” and to fight back against a Karl Rove initiative to keep unelectable Tea Partyers from winning primaries.
Walsh tweeted on Tuesday:
I’m filing the paperwork to form a super PAC to support freedom-loving conservative alternatives to @karlrove on FOX
He wrote on his Facebook page that “if we had listened to Karl Rove in 2010, there would be no [Florida] Sen. Marco Rubio. Rove backed Charlie Crist, who was last seen raving about President Obama at the Democrat National Convention last year.” Walsh also referenced Sens. Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, whose opponents were also backed by Rove.
After the GOP has let the freak show escape from the Midway & find it’s way into center ring of the big tent the past seven years it’s going to be very hard to chase them back out. Paleolibertarians, Birchers, Neoconfederates, and Constitution party hacks aren’t known for their abilities to detect when they aren’t wanted anymore.
The biggest donors in the Republican party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.
The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline over the party, particularly in primary races.
“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” said Steven Law, the president of American Crossroads, the super PAC creating the new project. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”
The effort would put a new twist on the Republican-to-Republican warfare that has consumed the party’s primary races in recent years. In effect, the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election.
There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on “The Colbert Report” (pronounced in the French fashion, with both t’s silent), the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic, who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J., where, according to one of his neighbors, he is “extremely normal.” One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of “The Colbert Report” is watching this Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero.
Suburban Colbert comes out dressed in the other Colbert’s guise — dark two-button suit, tasteful Brooks Brothersy tie, rimless Rumsfeldian glasses — and answers questions from the audience for a few minutes. (The questions are usually about things like Colbert’s favorite sport or favorite character from “The Lord of the Rings,” but on one memorable occasion a young black boy asked him, “Are you my father?” Colbert hesitated a moment and then said, “Kareem?”) Then he steps onstage, gets a last dab of makeup while someone sprays his hair into an unmussable Romney-like helmet, and turns himself into his alter ego. His body straightens, as if jolted by a shock. A self-satisfied smile creeps across his mouth, and a manically fatuous gleam steals into his eyes.
Lately, though, there has emerged a third Colbert. This one is a version of the TV-show Colbert, except he doesn’t exist just on screen anymore. He exists in the real world and has begun to meddle in it. In 2008, the old Colbert briefly ran for president, entering the Democratic primary in his native state of South Carolina. (He hadn’t really switched parties, but the filing fee for the Republican primary was too expensive.) In 2010, invited by Representative Zoe Lofgren, he testified before Congress about the problem of illegal-immigrant farmworkers and remarked that “the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables.”
But those forays into public life were spoofs, more or less. The new Colbert has crossed the line that separates a TV stunt from reality and a parody from what is being parodied. In June, after petitioning the Federal Election Commission, he started his own super PAC — a real one, with real money. He has run TV ads, endorsed (sort of) the presidential candidacy of Buddy Roemer, the former governor of Louisiana, and almost succeeded in hijacking and renaming the Republican primary in South Carolina. “Basically, the F.E.C. gave me the license to create a killer robot,” Colbert said to me in October, and there are times now when the robot seems to be running the television show instead of the other way around.
For years now, we’ve been hearing the rich baritone carnival bark of Steve Wynn, who never misses an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama for his economic policies.
His passion on the subject is a little obscure. After all, in March 2009, about two months after Obama took office in the midst of the financial crisis, Wynn stock hit a low of $15.40. It now trades above $100, an increase of more than 500 percent.
Like many of the super wealthy, Wynn has come out of this recession largely unscathed — in 2010, the richest 1 percent took home 93 percent of all the income gains — and his taxes remain largely unchanged.
But it was Obama’s rhetoric that scared Wynn, apparently, with all his “socialist” talk about returning tax rates on the wealthy to where they were during the crazy socialist tenure of President Bill Clinton.
Politico reported that Wynn gave “millions” to Karl Rove’s super PAC to defeat Obama and the Democrats. Money well spent. But Wynn was perhaps most effective attacking Obama in interviews.
Last week, three days after the election, a story appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Wynn said in an interview that he was proposing to build Wynn Philadelphia. Wynn told the reporter that the board of directors of Wynn Resorts signed off on the project two weeks ago, meaning before the re-election of the crazy socialist Obama.
Perhaps Wynn was duped by Karl Rove into thinking Obama would lose. Or, just as likely, all that talk about business sitting on its hands until Obama leaves offices was just that: talk.
Either way, Wynn apparently now believes there’s money to be made in an America whose president will be Obama for another four years. Not to mention he’s doing it in high-tax Philadelphia — the tax on slot machines is 55 percent there, compared with Nevada’s state gaming tax of well below 10 percent.
RESTORE OUR FUTURE: $142,645,946
90% spent on attack ads
$33% of all GOP spending
AMERICAN CROSSROADS: $91,115,402
93% spent on attack ads
21% of all GOP spending
AMERICANS FOR PROSPERITY: $33.564,920
100% spent on attack ads
8% of all GOP spending
CROSSROADS GPS: $22,133,006
69% spent on attack ads
5% of all GOP spending
AMERICAN FUTURE FUND: $19,038,220
41% spent on attack ads
4% of all GOP spending
ENDING SPENDING ACTION FUND: $9,928,188
52% spent on attack ads
2% of all GOP spending
BARACK OBAMA VICTORY: PRICELESS.
Seeking to reshape a national political debate he finds frustratingly superficial, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York is plunging into the 2012 campaign in its final weeks, creating his own “super PAC” to direct millions of dollars in donations to elect candidates from both parties who he believes will focus on problem solving.
Mr. Bloomberg, a billionaire and a registered independent, expects to spend from $10 million to $15 million of his money in highly competitive Congressional, state and local races.
The money would be used to pay for a flurry of advertising on behalf of Republican and Democratic candidates who support three of his biggest policy initiatives: legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting tougher gun laws and overhauling schools.
Among those Mr. Bloomberg will support are former Gov. Angus King, an independent running for the United States Senate in Maine; State Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, who is challenging a fellow Democrat, Representative Joe Baca of California, who the mayor believes has been weak on gun-control; and Representative Bob Dold, a Republican from Illinois who has backed gun-control measures.
The move reflects an eagerness from Mr. Bloomberg, who is entering the twilight of his mayoral term, to help elect more centrist candidates, who are willing to compromise and grapple with what he sees as grave problems confronting the country.
We all know that in the 2012 election season, outside groups fueled by unlimited checks from wealthy donors have been flooding America’s airwaves with campaign ads. Most of the attention in this sphere has focused on Super PACs, the turbocharged offspring of political action committees.
But Super PACs have in fact been outspent by another, more secretive type of political organization—nonprofits that declare their primary activity to be advancing “social welfare.” Dozens of so-called social welfare groups—such as the conservative Koch brothers’s Americans for Prosperity, the liberal Priorities USA, and Republican strategist Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS—have been blanketing swing states with political messages, as the law allows. These organizations do not reveal their donors, and until 60 days before the general election, they were not required even to reveal their expenditures to the Federal Election Commission, as long as their ads do not endorse specific candidates.
None of this is illegal. But some of these social welfare groups do appear to have crossed the legal line. In August, a sweeping investigation by ProPublica found that many of them got formal approval and tax-exempt status from the IRS by misrepresenting their activities. A number of them, in fact, sailed through the IRS approval process by claiming that they would not spend money on influencing elections—only to turn around and purchase political ads as soon as the same day.
Last week, another ProPublica report revealed that a nonprofit that was running clearly political ads in the Ohio Senate race—ads that praised the Republican candidate, Josh Mandel, and attacked his Democratic opponent, Sen. Sherrod Brown.That was the Government Integrity Fund, which had pledged to the IRS that it would not spend money on politics.
In the final sprint to the elections, many nonprofits are continuing to pour money into political ads—including some who misrepresented themselves to the IRS. On Tuesday, Politico reported that the nonprofit American Action Network will be launching a multimillion dollar ad campaign in partnership with the super PAC Congressional Leadership Fund on behalf of Republicans in the House of Representatives. This is a group that ProPublica found to have broadly misrepresented its spending in tax returns to minimize its political activity.
For the first time this election season, Mitt Romney is outspending President Barack Obama on television ads, as the Republican challenger unleashes the fruits of a summer of aggressive fundraising.
Mr. Romney will spend about $16.8 million on television ads this week, according to ad-tracking data provided by media buyers, while Mr. Obama will spend about $15.5 million, down 30% from the week before when the campaign spent heavily to air a two-minute spot.
The GOP nominee is spending heavily even in battleground states where Mr. Obama has led by notable margins in polls. That includes about $1 million in ad buys this week in Wisconsin by the Romney campaign.
At the same time, Mr. Obama and the super PAC supporting him have decreased their ad buys in Wisconsin, a bet that the president’s lead in the state is safe after a blitz of TV ads and two visits to the state by the president, including his largest rally of the year last week in Madison.
Mr. Romney can’t easily drop his efforts in the Badger State. If he were to lose Ohio, where Mr. Obama is leading in most polls, Wisconsin would become critical to any chance of his winning an Electoral College majority.
Meantime, Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama super PAC, is moving some of its Wisconsin money to Nevada after reviewing internal polling, aides said. Ad rates are much lower in Nevada, and Priorities USA officials believe it’s a place where its ad buy could make a difference in winning the state, as the president did in 2008.