Barack buying the election?

Barack buying the election?


No, I don’t really believe that Barack can buy the election. Obama’s base of political and financial support is genuine. We don’t know who all his contributors are, but they are genuine in their support. The amount of money that Obama raises is a function of his celebrity, his success as a candidate (big money special interest and corporate contributors genuinely love a winner), and his campaign’s very effective and extremely aggressive pursuit of filthy lucre without regard for source or size.

Still, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the Democrats and Liberals who used to call for public financing of elections, claiming that the Republican fund raising machine was equivalent to “buying an election”. I guess it is perfectly ok to “buy an election” as long as it is a Democrat doing the buying.

Public vs. Private Campaign Finance

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with how much money the Obama campaign raises. I consider the money that individuals, special interests and fat cats voluntarily contribute to Obama to be an expression of free speech. I oppose the public financing of campaigns. I have never checked off the box on my tax form to contribute my tax dollars to a political campaign fund. I opposed the McCain/Feingold Campaign “Reform” as a restriction on free speech. As far as I am concerned, if you want to take out a sub-prime second mortgage on your house and send Obama the proceeds, hey – both Obama and McCain will bail you out – go for it!

However, I do think there should be 100% perfect transparency on the source of every nickel contributed to every candidate. The Obama campaign apparently does not agree, as evidenced by their deliberate and calculated use of an on-line contribution mechanism which, unlike McCain’s (or every single retailer who accepts on-line credit card purchases) , makes it easy to hide the identity of small contributors.

That said, the efficacy of the Axelrod/Obama contribution machine, the enormity of their war chest, and the unprecedented spending it permits has produced some truly astonishing effects and consequences that are, in and of themselves, worthy of note.

Most interesting – the Obama campaign is responsible for the end of public financing of presidential campaigns. The irony here is just too rich. Barack Obama, the candidate of a party that has long championed public financing, reneges on a commitment to public financing when it becomes clear he can raise far more money privately. By making a cynical, smart, self-serving decision to abandon the public financing system, he wins the presidency. John McCain, the candidate of a party that has long fought against public financing or, for that matter, any limitations on campaign contributions, accepts public financing as a matter of personal conviction, is severely disadvantaged in the campaign, and loses the election. Lesson learned: If you accept public financing – you lose. Public financing of a major party presidential campaign will never happen again. The Obama campaign killed it for all time. Good.

Well, they can try to buy it.

At some point, we have to step back and try to grasp the sheer enormity of what Axelrod and Obama have wrought. We can just look at it and admire it as a spectacle, as a force of nature, much like staring at Niagara Falls, Mount Everest or the Grand Canyon. Tom Brokaw, Charlie Cook and Chuck Todd tried to take it all in during Meet The Press on Sunday:

MR. BROKAW: That fact is that Obama did go back on his word about accepting public financing. He went to private sector. He is spending a ton of money. Is this the end of public financing in American politics, Chuck?
MR. TODD: $3/4 billion dollars is what he is going to raise.
MR. BROKAW: Right.
MR. TODD: This is–his ad campaign is going to be more than Geico, OK? For this, for this last year. His brand more than, I think, Diet Coke. About…
MR. BROKAW: McDonald’s.
MR. TODD: Yeah. About equal for what McDonald’s is.”

Think about that. The Axelrod/Obama campaign has spent as much selling the Barack Obama brand as McDonald’s spends selling hamburgers. The numbers boggle the imagination. According to MSNBC, in the first 15 days of October, Obama spent over $105M or about half of what McCain spent on his entire Presidential campaign to date. Obama is spending $293,000/hour to win the Presidency.

The disparity in spending is just jaw dropping. Pundits and bloggers speculate about McCain pulling back advertising budgets in Michigan and other states. What do they expect? He has no choice. He cannot possibly keep up with Obama, so he has to pick his battles. Because of his principled but misguided decision to accept public funding, he brought a knife to a gun fight. Obama is outspending McCain on TV advertising in battleground states by at least three to one. And that is when McCain is trying to compete. In states where McCain is conserving resources, the disparity is much greater. They are outspending McCain on the internet 117 to one. Obama is spending more on negative advertising than any campaign in history, and McCain does not have the resources to reply. It is a war of attrition and the McCain campaign is out of ammuntion. As the Wall Street Journal Editorial reports:

Gigot: And part of the problem, John, is McCain is lacking the money to be able run all the messages, some positive spots–Obama’s running some positive spots too–but to answer some of those negative spots, for example, that claim that he would pay for some of his programs by cutting Medicare by $800 billion. I don’t really agree with that, and I think that’s a rebuttable proposition but if you don’t have the money to do it, you can’t rebut it.
Fund: Obama is fighting on a dozen fronts. McCain, because of the lack of money and resources, has to respond two or three of those fronts. The rest basically has to go by the boards.

It is no wonder that McCain must reduce spending in some states to compete in others. The wonder is that the polls are as close as they are with Obama outspending McCain at these extraordinary ratios. There are reports that in some markets Obama has purchased all available advertising, so McCain could not increase their spots even if they had the money.

Nothing to see here. Move along.
No. Really. Don’t look here, look over there.

And in the midst of all of this, what is both the traditional and new media focused on? The McCain campaign spending on Sarah Palin’s wardrobe and makeup. Even if you take the reported $150,000 wardrobe number at face value, you are talking about 30 minutes of Obama campaign spending or one half of what I like to call an “Obamahour$”. In light of the Obama spending the coverage is, as Palin saidRidiculous… Those clothes, they are not my property. Just like the lighting and the staging and everything else that the RNC purchased, I’m not taking them with me.”

On the topic of staging – we learned last week that the Obamacropolis staging in Invesco Field during the convention cost the Democrats an additional $5.3 million (17 Obamahour$) above the cost already incurred in outfitting the Pepsi Center stage. Ed Morrissey wonders about the comparison:

“Under those circumstances, the extra $5.3 million for the vanity platform at Invesco seems like a strange and very frivolous spending choice. Obama could have given the same (uninspiring) speech at the Pepsi Center and saved millions of dollars. This isn’t the same as buying a wardrobe for a candidate who lacked one; Democrats had already spent almost $15 million on the Pepsi Center. Obama had a perfectly good stage on which to accept his nomination and demanded another for his own ego.”

The most egregious deception of the campaign, is the notion that Obama is somehow rising above previous Republican fund raising efforts because most of this money is coming from small donors. Consider that notion completely debunked, courtesy of the Washington Post:

“Lost in the attention given to Obama’s Internet surge is that only a quarter of the $600 million he has raised has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less, according to a review of his FEC reports. That is actually slightly less, as a percentage, than President Bush raised in small donations during his 2004 race, although Obama has pulled from a far larger number of donors. In 2004, the Bush campaign claimed more than 2 million donors, while the Obama campaign claims to have collected its total from more than 3.1 million individuals.”

It is certainly true that the Axelrod/Obama campaign machine has broken all records for the absolute number of small donors. The more important point, is that to an even greater degree they broke all records for absolute numbers of rich, super-rich, special interest, corporate and fat cat donors. Big donors are the real meat and potatoes of the Axelrod/Obama campaign war chest.

Cynicism vs. Hypocrisy

In my previous post, commenter BenG suggested that I was swimming in “a bottomless pool of cynicism” regarding both parties. I guess that is fair. I just do not think it is a good idea to give Obama and the Democrats (or any politician and party) the virtual monarchical power that is in the offing next week. But that is just me. Others apparently think the Democrats and Obama will not be corrupted by more special interest money and more concentrated power than has been granted any U.S. leader in a generation. I consider that a triumph of hope over reason.

Connections between special interests, corporate interests, lobbyists, their contributions, and the access and influence the contributions garner must be inferred from circumstance. It has to be circumstantial, because if it was explicit it would be considered bribery and a felony. The only thing that can possibly keep these impulses in check is complete transparency on contributions and an opposition party with a share of power. The Republican party is about to be rendered impotent, and transparency is not a high priority in the Axelrod/Obama campaign. So – we will see too much power combined with too much secrecy in an Obama administration. This should work out well.

I guess I prefer swimming in a pool of cynicism to sitting in a hot-tub of hypocrisy. I see a lot of hypocrisy in the Obama campaign.

Since one party rule under Obama is a foregone conclusion, perhaps we should better understand the presidency we are buying and take a peek under the Axelrod/Obama secrecy kimono. Lets start with a good hard look at the deep and broad connections between just one major corporation and the Obama campaign.

AT&T Reaches out to touch Obama

I’ll list some of the connections. You can infer your own conclusions from the circumstances.

Broderick Johnson is a lobbyist for AT&T. He is the president of Bryan Cave a lobbying firm that receives large amounts of money from AT&T to represent their interests in Washington. Broderick Johnson contributes large amounts of money to Obama and other Democratic party candidates and causes. Broderick Johnson is also an adviser to the Obama campaign.

Lyndon Boozer is a lobbyist for AT&T. He receives large amounts of money from AT&T to represent their interests in Washington. Lyndon Boozer contributes and arranges contributions of large amounts of money to Obama and Democratic candidates. Lyndon Boozer is a good golfer and loves to play golf with Democratic politicians.

AT&T was a major sponsor and contributor to the Democratic Party convention in Denver. In return, AT&T got their logo printed on a very nice leather tote bag. I’m sure that promotion on the tote bag was all that AT&T wanted in return for sponsoring the convention.

AT&T threw a lavish party for Democratic politicians at the Democratic convention in Denver. In the interest of supporting the Axelrod/Obama policy of zero transparency, the press was not invited. Not even very liberal Democratic bloggers and reporters. Some reporters were even roughed up to keep them out. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Finally there is the very interesting case of Obama chief strategist David Axelrod, aka “Barack’s Brain.” David Axelrod is a partner in two firms collocated in the same office space in Chicago. Per the New York Times:

“Mr. Axelrod’s consulting business is divided between two companies. One, AKP&D Message and Media, focuses on political campaigns and is where Mr. Axelrod devotes most of his time. He is on leave from the other firm, ASK Public Strategies, which consults for companies and nonprofits, and is run primarily by his partner, Eric Sedler.”

One wonders how Axelrod takes a leave from a co-located consulting firm with only three partners and where he is the “A” in ASK Public Strategies. Did they divide the office with blue tape on the floor and keep Axelrod on one side? Does he wear blinders and earplugs when in the office? But I digress. The NYT article continues:

“Beyond the different clientele, the two firms also have a different approach to transparency. While AKP&D identifies about 70 of its political clients on its Web site, ASK has a policy of nondisclosure. That was not always the case. The Web site’s archived version, from 2004, identified some of them, which in addition to Household International and Wisconsin Energy included Exelon, the country’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, SBC Communications and the Chicago Teacher’s Union. The archived Web site said ASK devised campaigns to “drive the public discourse to areas of greatest advantage” for a “broad range of major corporations seeking to influence public policy”

Also among ASK’s clients? You guessed it. From Business Week:

“Among ASK’s other clients: AT&T. The telecom company, formerly known as SBC Communications, had been a customer, Sedler confirms, when it requested ASK’s help to defeat a broadband referendum…”

And why shouldn’t AT&T hire Axelrod’s firm? After all, the “S” in ASK is David Axelrod’s partner Eric Sedler:

“Prior to joining ASK Public Strategies, Sedler served as a Public Relations Director for AT&T Corporation, managing the company’s offices in Chicago, Atlanta and Miami. In that position, he was responsible for directing the company’s corporate public affairs campaigns in the central and southeastern United States.”

So AT&T gives a lot of money to ASK. Some of that money is in David Axelrod’s pocket, as one of three partners in ASK. But David Axelrod is on “leave” from ASK. Nothing to see here. Move along.

I am sure that all these AT&T connections are coincidental. I am sure that all of this circumstantial generosity has nothing to do with the fact that AT&T was under the cloud of a civil and criminal lawsuits as a result of their cooperating with an illegal Bush administration request to spy on Americans. I am sure that this has nothing to do with the fact that Barack Obama said he was opposed to granting AT&T immunity, but voted to grant AT&T immunity with the FISA capitulation. Pure circumstantial coincidence no doubt.

Draw your own conclusion. My conclusion – Obama will say anything when it is just talk and does not matter. He will act another way when it counts. That is the pattern we saw with Obama and Public Financing. That is the pattern we saw with Obama and Telecom Immunity. He talks reform, but acts out of self-interest. He talks bi-partisanship, but voted with a perfectly partisan 97% toe-the-party-line Democratic party voting record. That is the Obama/Axelrod way. That is the Chicago way.

And that is truly Change that AT&T can believe in.

Obama may not be buying the election.

But AT&T may very well have bought a president.

And you can fool some of the people all of the time.

x-posted from Divided We Stand United We Fall

  • Jimmy the Dhimmi

    Awesome. I saved this post to my hard drive.

  • Just Say N.O. to B.O.

    That “righteous wind” is really just another Obama butt-fart.

    Just Say N.O. to B.O.

  • DougL

    “The most egregious deception of the campaign, is the notion that Obama is somehow rising above previous Republican fund raising efforts because most of this money is coming from small donors. Consider that notion completely debunked, courtesy of the Washington Post: ”

    For certain values of “debunked” that really mean “apparently pulled out of their ass”. Whatever. Don’t bother going to the authoritative source [] or anything. FEC figures through 10/15/2008 show $639.2 million total contributions, of which just over $280 million came from donations of $200 or less. I’m not sure exactly how $280M/$639M comes out to “only a quarter” (per the WaPo article that you cite).

    On the one hand you object to restrictions on campaign contributions (“opposed the McCain/Feingold Campaign “Reform” as a restriction on free speech.”) but then in the same post, you rail about the big corporate donations to Obama.

    How to reconcile the two… hmm…

    Ah. Lots of campaign contributions to the candidate you’re opposed to. Check. You’re entitled to your opinion, but let’s not be too coy about it, shell we?

  • George Mauer

    “Others apparently think the Democrats and Obama will not be corrupted by more special interest money and more concentrated power than has been granted any U.S. leader in a generation.”

    Oh you’re just full of huff-and-puff. Those of us that have really considered the issue are fully aware that Barack Obama’s going to be a pretty hated figure by 2016. I mean, how many presidents have left office being actually LIKED? Its usually something that comes only with time. Yes yes single party rule is somewhat undesirable and they’re going to mess some stuff up. Its a different question as to whether an Obama administration will be better or worse than the unorganized, anti-intellectual, and hectic alternative.

    As for the actual topic of your post mw, I suspect that having already decided who you’re going to vote for, you’re just trying to build up some enthusiasm for the decision. Let me ask you this; if Barack had taken public financing it would certainly be closer, but do you truly believe that Barack would not have still been ahead? The guy’s just that good of a politician why begrudge him that? Of course if he had done this then people would have been questioning his judgement on that issue alone (“What, does he not want to win it?” Would have been the refrain.)

    You also miss the point that while only a quarter of his earnings are from small donors, his total amount of donors is enormous – far larger than anyone else before. That’s pretty damn democratic sounding.

    So go ahead and find reasons why he leaves a sour taste in your mouth, its only going to get worse from here on out, but lets keep it all in perspective huh?

  • Jim S

    Still, I can’t help but wonder what happened to the Democrats and Liberals who used to call for public financing of elections, claiming that the Republican fund raising machine was equivalent to “buying an election”. I guess it is perfectly ok to “buy an election” as long as it is a Democrat doing the buying.

    They lost in the Supreme Court and moved on, recognizing that their preferred approach stood no chance in the foreseeable future. Since that was the case the only remaining option was to outdo the other party.

  • mw

    The distinction is between “contributions” which you cite, and “donors” which WaPo cites. In other words – the donors have made multiple sub- $200 contributions, so both your stat on contributions and the WaPo stat on donors in the article are correct – 75% of Obama donors have contributed more than $200. Why they are making multiple small donations rather than one large donation, I cannot say. Perhaps you can explain a reason.

    I have no objection to the size of the Obama war chest. I am not railing against big corporate donations. I am railing against false pretense about the nature of Obama’s contributors. I am railing about hypocrisy from the left on campaign funding. I am railing about one specific industry and donor which circumstantially shows a clear quid-pro-quo with Obama’s vote in the Senate on FISA. A vote in which he reversed an explicit commitment to supporters, in order to cast a vote that was beneficial to a large contributor with deep connections to his campaign.

    I hope that helps.

  • Jim S

    I consider the definition of small donor to be pretty funny. Only those who donate under $200? Sure. I’m certain those $250 or $500 donors are expecting huge amounts of influence over the Oval Office.

    The main conclusion I draw from this article is the amazing hypocrisy involved in much of it.

  • mw

    “Oh you’re just full of huff-and-puff… – GM

    I prefer to think of it as – “facts”. I note your response did not disagree or challenge the factual basis of my statement.

    To answer your question: It depends on “how close”. If the election finishes with Obama showing an 8%+ margin of victory, then no – I don’t think it would make a difference and Obama would have won anyway. If the margin of victory is close – lets say ~3%, then yes I think that the huge disparity in contributions and spending could very well be the primary factor and the difference in victory or defeat.

  • bunny fufu

    In the beginning, people opened their wallets and gave a little money to a man they believed in. Then the campaigning began and every time “muslim” or “terrorist” was used, people got angrier at how our democratic process was being subverted by fear-mongerers. Wallets opened again and another small donation was made. Then some Congresswoman says that the media should expose pro-American and anti-American Congressmen. Then some (obviously) sick woman race baits by scratching herself on the face. “Socialist,” “Arab,” “Real America.” It’s not that hard to figure out why people give multiple times.

  • mw

    “They lost in the Supreme Court and moved on…” – JS

    I accept that as a rational explanation. However I don’t really believe you are speaking for the majority of the left on this question.

    Regarding the threshold for small donors, obviously it is an arbitrary number. However, the big point of the WaPo article that George W. Bush had a larger percentage of small donors / large donors than Obama, is probably not going to change by sliding the threshold to some other arbitrarily larger threshold.

  • Chris

    I’m personally disturbed that is requiring so much money to win elections. I think that’s probably one of the biggest flaws currently in our form of government.

  • bunny fufu

    I think it’s pretty obvious why so many people contributed multiple times. The first contribution was because people thought maybe this guy was worth believing in. Then every time people heard “Muslim” or “terrorist” they got a little madder and opened their wallets a little wider. Then some Congresswoman spouts McCarthyisms. Then an imaginary line between Real and Fake America was drawn. Then there’s the term “socialist” and talk of how some people see America differently. I’d like to see statistics regarding smears and small donations.

  • RR

    MW asks “Why they are making multiple small donations rather than one large donation, I cannot say. Perhaps you can explain a reason. ”

    I’m a small donor to the campaign. I’ve definitely given almost $500 at this point over the course of the campaign but I’ve never given more than $25 or $50 at a shot. Why? I couldn’t afford to give more. Most of the people that I know that have donated are like me. They can’t afford to give a large sum at once. I suspect that many of Obama’s donors are like me as opposed to those that typically give to Republican candidates. This is also the first candidate in any election I’ve donated to which is also common among the people I know that have donated to Obama.

  • Erik Sickinger

    MW: a well thought out piece. I don’t agree with all of it, but I really have one primary question, since i dont consider any of the other things you covered to be any more damning than the things mccain and co. have done:
    Is your argument something on the coming ultra-godlike powers of ATT?
    Or there are other corporations to add to this really big tie-in besides ATT?

    Like halliburton with Cheney – but the telecom industry instead of oil…

    CELL TOWERS ARE THE ONLY REASON WE ARE IN (insert nation here)

  • DougL

    Wow. I thought parsing what definition of what “is” is was pretty ludicrous. You want to find a distinction between “donors” and “contributors”. I don’t suppose there’s some formal distinction that you can point to (like maybe FEC regulations or something similar) other than what’s required to make your twisted reasoning fit.

  • Aaron

    Jim S: Sweet! I donated $300. Does this mean I’m a special interest group and can lay claim to Hawaii? 😉

  • mw

    You want to find a distinction between “donors” and “contributors” – dl

    You appear to have a bit of a reading comprehension problem. I am not making a distinction between “donors” and “contributors”. I am just explaining how there is difference between counting individual “contributions” – which is what you did in your comment, and counting “donors” which is what the Washington Post article does.

    It is pretty simple really. One donor can make multiple contributions. That is why you get a different percentage than the Washington Post. You are counting contributions. The Washington post is counting donors. If you can’t understand that difference, I can’t help you.

    Before commenting, I suggest you sit down with a tall refreshing glass of iced kool-aid, and slowly and carefully read what you are commenting about. Glad to help out.

  • mw

    Are you saying it is ok for a politician to break promises, hide relationships, and change their votes based on corporate contributions, as long as we don’t go to war?

  • mw

    “I suspect that many of Obama’s donors are like me as opposed to those that typically give to Republican candidates.” – rr

    The point of the Washington Post article, is that there is actually no difference in the makeup of small donors vs. large donors when comparing contributors to BHO vs. GWB. In fact, GWB had a slightly higher percentage of small donors. Which means that the BHO campaign is actually funded more by large donors than was GWB.

    There is however one big difference between BHO and GWB fund raising. There are a lot more donors for Obama of all sizes, which is also consistent with your experience – as a first time contributor. The point is simple – the notion that the BHO campaign is funded primarily by small donors is false. He is more reliant on big contributors than was GWB. That is all.

  • Lit3Bolt

    Solid piece mw. The AT&T connections shed new light on Obama’s capitulation on FISA. Very good research and investigation, and a pretty damning picture.

  • L

    Is it just me or do posts like this seem useless. If it were the other way around it’d be the left whining and mw and company finding ways to justify massive fundraising from their candidate. It is just a fact of politics, I don’t think anyone really cares beyond attacking the other or defending their candidate.

  • mw

    “Is it just me…? – L

    Yes. Yes it is. Happy to help.

  • John

    Frankly, I’m glad he changed his mind. I’m tired of Republicans whining about it, however. L is right. If it were the other way around Reps would be saying, quit whining or change the rules. Look at Kerry and Gore, they got ran over by Republican dirty tricks and having been out spent by 527’s. Enough’s enough. Quit whining or change the rules.