In his historic Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke somberly of the horrific sacrifice that had been made by so many so “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
I do not believe that this is the government of the people, by the people and for the people that Lincoln described, and that our Founding Fathers had earlier fought so hard to create:
Republican superPACs and other outside groups shaped by a loose network of prominent conservatives – including Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and Tom Donohue of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – plan to spend roughly $1 billion on November’s elections for the White House and control of Congress, according to officials familiar with the groups’ internal operations.
That total includes previously undisclosed plans for newly aggressive spending by the Koch brothers, who are steering funding to build sophisticated, county-by-county operations in key states. POLITICO has learned that Koch-related organizations plan to spend about $400 million ahead of the 2012 elections – twice what they had been expected to commit.
Just the spending linked to the Koch network is more than the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential campaign four years ago. And the $1 billion total surpasses the $750 million that Barack Obama, one of the most prolific fundraisers ever, collected for his 2008 campaign.
As the piece notes, both Obama and Mitt Romney are expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars on their own, to fund their own campaigns. As usual, much of that money will come from special interests seeking favors from those they help to elect, and neither party is immune to money’s gravitational pull.
However, that money will at least be traceable back to its source, and the campaigns and the candidates can at least be held accountable by the voter for how they conduct themselves in the public sphere. Neither is true of the money that will pour into superPACS. It is being raised anonymously and will be spent anonymously, with the clear intention of buying not just influence but control.
And while Democrats will attempt to compete — Politico reports that the main pro-Obama superPAC hopes to raise $100 million — the clear financial advantage will belong to conservatives. That advantage will loom particularly large in Senate and House races, where a few spare million can make a very big difference in the outcome.
If your goal is victory for a party calling itself “Republican,” that advantage is a wonderful thing. However, if by “Republican” you mean a small-government party that does not intervene in the marketplace on behalf of immensely powerful special interests, I would suggest that you look more closely at this Trojan Horse being welcomed inside your city walls. People who make billion-dollar investments have a funny way of expecting to profit from said investments.
In time, if the system is not reformed, Democrats too will be forced to bend a knee to those who believe that big money justifies having a big voice, and only the naive would believe that that such a power once unleashed can easily be reined in. It will be government of the people, by the people and for the people only in the sense that, well, corporations are people.
– Jay Bookman