How the FCC can take the Money out of Politics- Cole at Truthdig

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?”…

Read The whole thing.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Responses | Print |

16 Responses

  1. To we Brits, the solution is obvious: ban political advertising on television and radio.

    Instead, in the British system, the main channels are required to provide air time for a small number of advertisements produced by the political parties. (They are called Party Political Broadcasts).

    • Your idea has potential, Mr. Fincham, but would probably need to be scaled up for the American election system. Most Americans still don’t believe they vote for the party, but for “the individual.” Moreover, of the two viable parties in the US, only one maintains intraparty discipline and is thus a known brand.

      Still, dramatically limiting broadcast time that’s permitted to candidates/parties could reduce the money needed to run, reduce public burn-out with the process, and maybe even reduce the effectiveness of disinformation campaigns.

      But what would you prescribe for the web: Facebook, twitter, blogs, Youtube, etc? For that matter, what about the non-broadcast teevie and radio stations? (Cable, satellite, etc.)

  2. Excellent. Total agreement. What big money (aggravated by Citizens United) has done to USA politics is to create a HEREDITARY ARISTOCRACY of the wealthy corporations and wealthy individuals (hate to say “persons” any more!). An aristocracy because they are overwhelmingly powerful. Hereditary because that wealth passes along, year after year, in the same corporations adn same families.

    Shortening campaigns, though, steps on free press (if radio and TV are “press”) and on “free speech”. even if occicial FCC-type campiagns are one-month long, nothing would preclude KOCH- and ADELSON-types from buying high-priced “time” outside that period.

    Need some constitutional twiddling here.

    • Ever since the 1970’s the US has experienced several campaign finance reforms, with the effect of making the problem far worse than what it was before.

      Today’s super pac’s are birthlings of the McCain/Feingold campaign finance reform of 2000. I warned advocates the bill would have the opposite effect than what was advertized, and so it has.

      The same fate will befall any other schemes dreamed up by issue advocates and activists, until the 1st amendment right to “freedom of speech” is to all intents and purposes eliminated.

      • Rather than eliminate the amendment, we need to redefine free speech. Hopefully not in some Orwellian manner, but in a way which flattens the ability to have one’s speech heard. When the amendment was drafted, free speech, meant talking freely with people, and maybe publishing a newsletter and handing it out on the street, it was simply unimaginable in those days, that immensly rich people could virtually drown out the voices of the little people.

        Of course, for profit media is a big part of the problem. Broacasters love campaign advertising, it enhances revenues and profits. As long as we as a society elevate making as much as possible into lifes overriding goal, we will continue to have major problems.

        • “Free Speech” in the 1st amendment meant unencumbered political speech by all classes of individuals; nothing more, nothing less. The problem isn’t money, its the passage of legislation since the 60’s that has adulterated the meaning of “free speech,” shackling the individual exercise of, and granting greater advantage and privilege to elite power by means of these spurious campaign reform acts.

          Nullifying every campaign finance reform act passed by local, state and federal authority, making it illegal for corporations public, private, charitable, etc from engaging in any form of electoral activity (besides exterminating the person-hood fiction), and returning to the original intent of the 1st amendment, not just its “free speech” portion is the way to solve the “problem.”

          Anything else will fail.

  3. We have already evolved beyond campaign finance reform and saving the “5th party system,” or to be honest the American 5th republic.

    We are in the age of class warfare, the battle between optimate/plutocracy and plebe/populism. These super pac’s can only exasperate the problem. But more importantly, the fools on top have forgotten that in the US, impoverished wage-slaves can vote.

    What will these fools do when the masses elect the Man OF Democracy?

  4. Can we go back to Syrian news please seems a lot more urgent than this. I thought it was a blog mainly on the ME

    • How do you think America gets the crappy Middle Eastern policy that it has? A lot of money is spent making us believe those policies are correct.

  5. We faced the same sort of thing at the turn of the 20th century. Corporate domination of politics, a few rich men running the show.

    Somehow, we got through it. Somehow, we got reform. Somehow, our grandfathers and grandmothers ignored the blandishments of a far more directly-corrupt system and voted for honest government.

    We can too. Money isn’t everything.

    • Not so. WW II is what changed everything; politics, society and culture after 1945.

      Corporate America and the moneyed elites wanted to change the clock back before 1933, but ran into lots of public & political resistance. 140 million Americans had been changed irrevocably and viscerally opposed being dragged wholesale back to the past. Some 16 millions of them were combat veterans, which also marvelously concentrated the minds of elites like a hanging on a fortnight.

      It were the Depression and WWII generations, hammered and forged between the anvil and fires of those experiences, who created the post war world order; a new paradise in Eden. A world their unworthy children & grandchildren squandered and piddled away into the sewers by lewd behavior and unchecked licentiousness. The spoiled brats they spawned is the only failure the “greatest generation” can be blamed for, and its been a downhill racer ever since the boomers came into their majority in the later 60’s.

      That’s why today’s elites believe they can turn back the hand of time. Eden is lost and the elites, the fools, will find themselves lost with it too.

  6. Actually, the problem is that advertising works.

    Since there’s no reason why any ad needs to be true, and advertisers are increasing their understanding and control of human thought faster than humans are evolving in intelligence, we must eventually lose control of our senses to those who pay for the ads.

    That means Free Will, the entire premise behind Christian sin, liberal government, and free markets, is simply another technological problem that is being defeated by our plucky plutocrats and bureaucrats. That means our entire concept of freedom is potentially meaningless. We can’t be sure that anything we do is not the product of contrived programming.

    Every commercial you’ve ever seen, besides selling the product it’s obviously about, sells one other thing: the idea that business, in general, has your best interests at heart, that it is the main source of goodness, prosperity and freedom. Government propaganda and religious theology at least shove that in your face for you to reject. But to reject that all those different products in our lives from all those businessmen represent some higher good is damn near impossible.


    • Advertizing isn’t the problem. There was no shortage of it in the early republic and far more rancorous, defamatory and libelous than what’s published today.

      Nor is money, per se, a problem. Its the onerous and complicated campaign finance filing requirements that literally crushes political speech by individuals. Corporate America and the rich can afford the attorneys and accountants, whereas the little people can’t.

      • Comparing the advertising of the past to the sophisticated mind control techniques that multinational corporations spend fortunes on today is like comparing Tippecanoe & Tyler Too with Dr. Goebbels’ Ministry of Information.

        There have been articles recently about how Target stores track and study people’s movements so they can predict their behavior. The evil wizards of Madison Avenue also claim that most people are sheep following a handful of influential, charistmatic types. The latter have been identified demographically and targeted. Of course, Karl Rove and his ilk keep up with this, which is how they are able to target black neighborhoods with harassing flyers that imply they should stay away from the voting booth unless they’re absolutely sure all their “papers” are in order. The automation of personalized propaganda is being pioneered by the big Internet players.

        They know too much about us, their knowlege is growing exponentially, and they are using it against us.

  7. Redeemed, coming back once in a while to the Cole blog, read this piece on Thuthdig, a more ‘general news’ source.

    Congratulations professor, in my opinion you are redeemed, your speaking your mind seems to shift to within the scope of what matters, is relevant, with this article.


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