Feb 26, 2012

SuperPACs: the right kind of influence?

Citizens United was new. Lisa Murkowski was in dire straits having been beaten, as the incumbent in the 2010 primary, by an unknown Joe Miller. The Alaska Federation of Natives (AFN) learned what power a super-PAC can have when the native corporations resolved to use one to support Senator Murkowski’s write-in campaign.

This was more than an endorsement by AFN, this was the power of funding with efficiency multiplied; a group may not be in consensus regarding who to support, but large amounts of corporate money, not legal in the past, could be garnered without the effort of contacting individuals, of coordinating the myriad calls and mailers to get a few dollars from each interested eligible voter. Now a SuperPAC can take the wishes of a few and use the power of that money to reach potential voters.

Might it sway a candidate? Politicians have been corruptible for less – Alaska still reels from the federal investigation of the “Corrupt Bastards’ Club” - state politicians caught taking money from the president of an oilfield service company for their votes. We should be nervous and watchful now that kind of money can be used out in the open for the benefit of a few.

Murkowski was a known commodity, supporting federal entitlements for Native Alaskans as well as big-oil interests. Joe Miller, endorsed by Sarah Palin, turned out to have more than a checkered past: his hypocrisy of taking entitlements he would deny to others, myriad lies, and ties to anti-federal militia groups, as well as questionable activities involving government computers, became known.

Joe had Koch Brothers funding, courtesy of the Sarah Palin’s endorsement (a favor he infamously declined return). Lisa had not expected to need much funding to be elected, because as a sitting Republican in a Red state, it was thought she’d be a shoo-in.

While the big news was on the tilt-at-a-windmill chance Lisa Murkowski was taking with her write-in challenge, and the foibles of Joe Miller’s sorry life, the elephant in the room was the SuperPAC money being spent on advertising that overwhelmed anything seen before.

As much as I was happy to see Alaska Natives have power and a voice in national politics, it was distressing to watch the voice of the Democratic candidate, Scott McAdams, be drowned by the din. He held his own; his political presentation was well received in spite of his newcomer status. Still, the crazy noise entirely overshadowed Scott McAdams’ campaign.

The AFN SuperPAC, Alaskans Standing Together, nearly doubled the funds Murkowski had in the war chest to promote her campaign, spending $1.2 million. Fundraisers would have had to tap at least 240 people for the maximum $5,000 each to gain that much (Anchorage Daily News, 22 November 2010), but it also allowed Murkowski’s campaign to put effort on outreach, rather than use supporters to bring in cash.

Would Murkowski have won the write-in campaign without it?

Hard to say; it was clear Joe Miller is a loser; in my opinion Scott McAdams would serve ALL of the people of this state rather than just the special interests Murkowski bends to.

Senator Murkowski does serve the AFN well, so for them, it is money well spent.

1 comment:

Staid Winnow said...

The problem is not that SuperPACs can buy elections, including the presidency.

The danger is not seeing how cheaply it can be bought.

Consider the POTUS race. Now, one can see that a billion dollars is way more than what has ever been raised in history.

Today a few multibillionaires (Koch suckers, Larry Ellison, some idiot in Nevada) can easily raise that money. Less than 2% of their combined net worth.

They get Mitt elected, and 3-6 months later, they'd have recouped their investment.

*That* is the real problem