Conservative groups running issue ads with corporate money: how to hang this albatross around the GOP's neck

Posted on September 20, 2010

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I read via the AP today that the two conservative groups founded by Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, have raked in so much money from donors that this midterm election will likely be the most expensive yet. According to the AP, the two groups combined have raised about $32 million so far this year.

While we don’t know where the money for the supposedly “non-profit” Crossroads GPS comes from, American Crossroads is a registered 527 and so we have some information on its donors. Since its inceptions, American Crossroads has had eight donors of $50,000 or more each, with six of those donors hitting or surpassing the $1 million mark.

That wealthy donors are allowed to give massive amounts of money to political 527s is perhaps not a surprise. What’s new this year is the fact that corporations are allowed to give directly, and of those top eight donors, three are corporations, rather than people: TRT Holdings Inc. ($1 million), Southwest Louisiana Land LLC ($1 million), and Dixie Rice Agricultural Corporation ($1 million). This is legal during this year’s election because the Supreme Court, in a supremely bad decision, ruled that, because corporations are people, corporations are allowed to donate to unregulated agencies like 527s as much as they want, just like any flesh-and-blood human. It’s entirely possible that a corporation run by a billionaire could donate a couple of million dollars as the corporation while the billionaire himself also donates a couple of million dollars. And five conservative Supreme Court Justices thought that this was a good idea.

According to the AP article, American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS have run ads or will be running new ads attacking Democrats and/or supporting Republicans in California, Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

If I were a Democrat being attacked by these ads, I’d do everything in my power to drape them over my opponent’s neck like an albatross with something like the following:

“Have you seen those so-called issue ads attacking me and supporting my opponent? Did you notice that they weren’t paid for by my opponent’s campaign? That’s right, they’re paid for by Republican political groups that get their money from the super wealthy and corporations. Yes, you heard me right – corporations.

“In August, the Supreme Court let corporations like BP, General Motors, and the financial ‘titans’ on Wall Street donate as much money as they want to political groups in order to influence elections with their money. At the same time, the Court erased limitations on how much money people could donate. So now my opponent is benefiting from ads paid for by corporations and billionaires who want him to win and me to lose.

“And you know why. Because those corporations who have paid for these ads don’t want want to be regulated by Congress. Because those corporations don’t want to have to pay to clean up their air and water pollution. Because those corporations care about profit more than they care about the economic health of their communities. And because billionaires don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes.

“What’s even worse is that we don’t even know who has paid for some of these ads. That’s because our election laws shield some of the donors from potentially embarrassing exposure – embarrassing for the company, embarrassing for my opponent. For all we know Diebold, the very company who makes the machines our district uses to vote on, has donated money to defeat me. I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds like a conflict of interest to me. But the laws protect Diebold’s reputation and profits over your votes. That’s not right.

“So I say this to you: if you want Diebold and BP and Wall Street and billionaires an even greater voice in DC than they already have, then I don’t want your vote. If you want to let unregulated money to destroy our Constitution and bury our elections, then go ahead and vote for my opponent.

“But if you want someone in DC who’ll fight to reclaim your vote from the corporations, vote for me. If you want someone who will stand up to a conservative Supreme Court bound and determined to let the rich buy the election away from you, vote for me. And if you want someone who will fight for you, your family, and your community over the rights of corporations to pollute and destroy our economy, then vote for me on Election Day!”

This speech needs some serious work to be turned into an effective message, but I think you get the gist of it. To date, I haven’t heard anything even remotely like this. That’s too bad, because I’d have a hard time NOT voting for a candidate who ran, at least in part, on this.

The Supreme Court opened the floodgates with their decision overturning a century of established campaign finance law, and we’re starting to see the impacts of the conservative majority’s myopia. I expect, however, that it’ll get far worse before it gets better.

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