My column is out at truthdig “How the FCC can take the Money out of Politics” Excerpt: “Big money has always been a problem in American politics, but now humongous money threatens…
My column is out at truthdig “How the FCC can take the Money out of Politics”
“Big money has always been a problem in American politics, but now humongous money threatens to capsize the ship of state. Billionaires are very, very good at getting rich, mostly through stealth monopolies, relatively sure things (e.g., casinos) or through riding investment bubbles. But they are seldom scientists, physicians or educators, and can often entertain rather cranky beliefs, such as climate change denial or misogyny. Thus, the GOP super wealthy, having produced the tea party in 2010, have now given us national candidates so extreme that they often seem to be running for Supreme Leader of Iran instead of president of the United States. Although the Citizens United ruling of the Supreme Court contributed to this problem, the culprits here are, fundamentally, the length of U.S. campaigns and the cost of television advertising for them.
Ari Berman has shown that about four-fifths of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 for the Republican primary contests was donated by only 196 individuals, who gave $100,000 or more each. Politics has become a game of the super rich, but the money they donate is significant only because of the way it is spent. An increasingly large percentage of it pays for television and radio commercials, and it is used by our new aristocracy to keep pet candidates alive. Newt Gingrich, for instance, might not have made it to South Carolina, where he won, without the backing of a single individual, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Venetian in Las Vegas.
In the 2008 campaign year, about $2.8 billion was spent on television campaign spots nationwide, and the figure is expected to be much larger this time. Although television advertising is not always decisive, politicians can’t afford to bet that it won’t be. Mitt Romney spent $15 million in negative advertising against Gingrich in the Florida primary, which arguably blunted Gingrich’s momentum coming off his South Carolina win. Why should private broadcasters, licensed by the U.S. government in preference of other possible licensees, have been allowed to make massive profits off a public political campaign?”…
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