Real Bipartisanship: The Billionaire Class Has Bought Our Democracy
Blue America and Marianne Williamson share a lot of candidates that we've both endorsed and last week we helped Marianne with an ad hoc online fundraiser for her endorsed candidates. Although contributions are still coming in, around $6,000 was raised while candidates introduced themselves and their platforms over the course of around an hour and a half. Although there were quite a few contributions for $5 or less, the average contribution was around $85.00. That's nearly double the average contribution at Blue America. Split between nearly 20 candidates, about $300 was raised by each campaign. That's a drop in the bucket for a campaign. Candidates have to raise that every half hour, 7 days a week to get out a message and organize a ground game.
That's why so many candidates depend on big donors and on corporate PACs. A friend of mine who's managing a campaign for a progressive Democratic incumbent who is being primaried from the left was complaining to me on the phone about the challenge and about why his candidate doesn't deserve it. I don't know the challenger but I asked my friend-- the campaign manager-- if his client takes corporate cash. "No," he said firmly. I asked him how many hours ago did his candidate stop the practice. He laughed and admitted it was about a week ago-- hours after he learned about the challenge.
This graphic from Issue One.org shows a dozen billionaires who have, since 2019, grotesquely perverted American democracy to the point that... well, if the Revolution ever comes and the guillotines ever get rolled out-- these would all be reasonable candidates for Day One (if their private jets can be prevented from whisking them away).
Notice, please, that 6 are Democrats and 6 are Republicans, although I will add that all give to almost exclusively to conservative establishment candidates, not to political leaders who are seriously challenging the status quo. And the one who spent the most, Michael Bloomberg, has been a Democrat, a Republican and an independent and that most of the $1.4 billion he gave to campaigns was for his own laughable vanity campaign for president. Almost all the Democrats he and his entities give to or support are Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party, like himself, i.e. Democraps.
Michael Beckel wrote in the report that those 12 megadonors alone contributed a combined $3.4 billion to federal candidates and political groups between January 2009 and December 2020, which amounts to 7.5% of the $45 billion that all federal candidates and political groups raised between January 2009 and December 2020. [Let me add that that doesn't include the massive amounts some of these people spent buying state legislatures and governors.] "Put another way, this means that 12 megadonors and their spouses-- a total of 19 individuals-- accounted for about $1 of every $13 in federal politics between January 2009 and December 2020. 'This research shows the alarming influence of just a handful of wealthy megadonors in our political system,' said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. 'Our government can’t be responsive to all Americans if our elected officials are beholden to the elite donor class.' Added Issue One Executive Director Meredith McGehee: 'Americans are losing faith in our democratic institutions. They see political gridlock and a broken campaign finance system that gives undue influence to billionaires and millionaires across the political spectrum, while the vast majority of ordinary citizens lack a seat at the table. Congress must urgently act to restrain the growing influence of money in our politics and build a system that truly represents all Americans, not just the wealthy few.'"
Our career politicians were clearly unprepared to address the pandemic challenges, with their core expertise in partisan politics and responding to the lobbyists. With no accountability, and the ability for these politicians to game the system, they get brazen and even push legislation that do not favor their own constituents. Silicon Valley progressive challenger Rishi Kumar is running against Anna Eshoo, who went against President Obama and introduced legislation favoring Big Pharma, giving pharmaceutical companies 12 year exclusivity periods for biologic drugs, beyond the length of their patents, to protect them from competition by the generic drug industry. Why would anyone do that? Well, she’s the top recipient of Pharma money in the House of Representatives while she chairs the House Health Subcommittee. How can America even let us a conflict of interest slide by? Rishi Kumar has not accepted a dime from PACs, whereas Rep. Eshoo raises almost 50% of her campaign funds from PACs regularly. Not to mention the big donors-- contributing to the max-- from the Pharma and bio-tech industry who live in Eshoo’s congressional district-- the most affluent district of America. Kumar told me this morning that "There is no argument: we need to overturn the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision today! Congresswoman Eshoo aka corporate incumbent has expressed outrage against Citizens United. But it’s a hollow statement given the influence of money on her own political agenda. In a January 2015 press release, she wrote that Citizens United 'cast a dark shadow over our democracy by bringing us dangerously closer to an electoral system where the voices of average Americans are easily drowned out by special interests, shadowy front groups, and a handful of billionaires.' But what is more interesting is that End Citizens United, the organization whose agenda is to purge big money from politics, gave an A rating to Rep. Eshoo. Is this how we want our system to work? There are multiple things wrong with this and it makes the job of progressives challengers even harder."
Washington state progressive congressional candidate Jason Call wants to make are all DWT readers know that "Grassroots progressive campaigns that eschew corporate PAC money are unfortunately and quite obviously at a severe disadvantage. We have to make up the fundraising difference with passionate and hardworking volunteers. We often don't get to pay our staff; their efforts are a labor of love. We wouldn't have it otherwise, of course, it's the price we pay for integrity, and it won't change until we get Campaign Finance Reform and publicly funded elections. To contrast my grassroots campaign with the incumbent, we raised around $50,000 last year and got almost 35,000 votes, about $1.40 per vote. That's actually really good, and while we missed the general election ballot by 1% there was a lot to be proud of. Rick Larsen, 20 year incumbent, raises over a million dollars in every election cycle, the majority of it from corporate PACs, and less than 6% from local small donors. Those votes weren’t earned, they were bought. And in the first FEC filing quarter, we brought in a $34 per contributor average, while Larsen’s per donor average was $1168. What the public generally doesn't see is how that money affects voting. Larsen has a legitimately bad voting record on final bills and sides with industry and Republicans with alarming frequency. But a deeper dig reveals that his voting record is even worse in the amendment process, where introduced bills undergo a series of alterations. This is where Larsen really does his dirty work on behalf of his benefactors. We're in the process of updating our 'Larsen exposed' pages at www.callforcongress.com/larsen, there's so much more we've been able to identify that connects his corporate money to bad votes. We're confident that once the electorate really sees this for what it is-- the wholesale purchase of our government by corporate interests-- that will reject it outright. We're also hoping that our work in particular will be seen as a gold standard model for other candidates on how to expose their own corporate incumbents, and plan to hold some seminar sessions on how to do that work, because it desperately needs to be done all across the country. In the meantime, please donate to your favorite progressives, every dollar counts, and recurring contributions are essential for us to plan for the future of our campaigns. Solidarity ✊"