January 29, 2010

"Dem Consultants: Citizens United Ruling Not Such a Big Deal."

Hmm. Are they saying that because it's true or because it's strategic to say that?
Since the Supreme Court struck down limits last week on corporate-funded independent expenditure campaigns, Democrats and good-government advocates have been quick to warn of a flood of new corporate money entering American politics. But with campaigns already awash in corporate cash, some Democratic political pros doubt we'll notice much difference.
This is coming from TPM, which is a pro-Democrats blog.
"I don't think this is going to fundamentally change the way campaigns are done," said Mike Lux, a prominent Democratic consultant and operative who founded the Progressive Donor Network.

Steve Murphy, a Democratic consultant and former top aide to Dick Gephardt, agreed. "I don't believe this is a dramatic shift," he said.

Both men noted that corporations already move billions into entities that allow them to run hard-hitting "issue" ads. It's true that those ads couldn't directly advocate for the election or a defeat of a candidate. But they said that in their experience, issue ads are more effective anyway. In other words, corporations have long had a potent enough weapon at their disposal to influence elections when they've wanted to....
But the case itself — quite aside from its real effect — is an issue that Democrats might chose to exploit "to paint the Republicans as allies of corporations, and to tout Democrats' populist credentials."
But some in the consultant community see the issue as less than a political winner, arguing that voters don't care about process issues, and will judge Democrats by their substantive achievements.

"I wish Democrats would talk about this a little less," said Murphy. "We've got to produce."


Andrew said...

Professor Althouse:


Even his own party fails to take Obama seriously anymore.

Look at what Dodd said to the press.

NotWhoIUsedtoBe said...

I don't believe that the old law was working anyway. Both parties raised a record amount in 2008.

Beldar said...

The only contributions being deterred were from those people who are both (1) at the controls of corporations and (2) so scrupulously honest that they didn't use any of the easy means to work around the ban on corporate contributions. In two words, "honest money."

So no, adding "honest money" into the mix isn't going to change anything much. But at least it makes the process less hypocritical.

I'm Full of Soup said...

The Dems have out-raised the Reps for years, right? Yet most people believe that Reps have way more money for their campaigns. Hence the urban legend is that the Dems are at a huge disadvantage re political funds.

I suspect the Dems don't want that myth debunked.

John Thacker said...


It's not contributions that are affected by this law; it's direct expenditures. So if a corporation (and that includes nonprofits) wanted to produce an ad or a book or a movie on its own.

Really large corporations already had PACs, because they lobby a lot every year. PACs are complicated to set up and maintain unless you spend a lot every year. The people who were deterred were mostly small businesses, nonprofits, and ad hoc groups that don't always lobby, but wanted to suddenly organize for one particular issue or election.

Lem said...

From no big deal to the end of civilization as we know it... from the same side!

If you are going to lie, lie from the same sheet of music.

Its not helpful to be confusing people like that ;)

kjbe said...

AJ - that might be true on a corporate vs. union level, but the myth really falls apart after Obama's ginormous fund raising for '08.

As far as any new, dramatic shift happening - I think the train's already left that station.

A.W. said...

well, the other reason why it doesn't matter is this.

Because there is an army of davids around.

i mean that is the central insight of Glenn Reynolds' book: the little guy can take down the big guy. And think of how many examples there are of this.

Power Line and Little Green Footballs v. Dan Rather.

Trent Lott

Acorn v. Breitbart and a guy dressed in a ridiculous pimp outfit.

Original Mike said...

"But the case itself — quite aside from its real effect — is an issue that Democrats might chose to exploit "to paint the Republicans as allies of corporations, and to tout Democrats' populist credentials."

Given that it was the Supreme Court, not Republicans, who are responsible Dems would have to use some pretty twisted logic to do that, wouldn't they?

MayBee said...

I'm just trying to imagine the alternate world- where SCOTUS ruled for the administration.
And a Republican candidate seeks to have a negative book about himself banned because it violates campaign funding laws, as this Administration argued.

I bet in that world, the Republican would be a book-banning zealot.

holdfast said...

"I wish Democrats would talk about this a little less," said Murphy. "We've got to produce."

I like the cut of his jib. Do you think he's be willing to come over to the dark side? We could use some smart folks who know when to avoid a stupid and futile battle.

bagoh20 said...

Then what was all that "end of democracy crap we just heard. Oh, a pissy fit, everywhere, even during the SOTU. These people have an endless supply of catastrophe, especially now that the Global Warming one is not scaring anyone anymore.

Peter V. Bella said...

The Democrats found someone who knows how to read. They had the decision read to them. They realized it was the proper thing to do and are now backing off.

Maybe they should hire literate people to work for the party to avoid embarrassment in the future.

traditionalguy said...

So the Supremes did find meaning to Free Speech inside of the First Amendment at last. That is despite 70 years of decisions bending to allow Congress to stop free speech by stopping donations to political campaigns. The ticked off class are the incumbents. The Not so alarmed class are the actual spenders of the newly donated money. And if it is such a good idea to decriminalise Drugs to stop a crime wave of smugglers, the decriminalising political campaigns to stop a crime wave of money smugglers should work too.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

It may be true that on the national level this ruling may not be so important but critics are right to worry about state and local elections where 'wealthy speech' - for want of a better phrase - can overwhelm another candidate or an election.

Think of a judicial race - some states elect Supreme Court justices - where a candidate is favored by a corporate interest and those interests flood the airwaves with pro-candidate ads.

Nationally, sure, the playing field is more level. But not so on the local level.

Again, I agree with the ruling but not so sanguine that the benefits won't always be good ones.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Suddenly it dawns upon the Democrats that the UNIONS can use this also to persuade voters to vote for Democrats.

Woah Nellie....... it isn't so bad after all.

Funny how you can see the light when it is in your benefit.

Brian said...

SMGalbraith said:
It may be true that on the national level this ruling may not be so important but critics are right to worry about state and local elections where 'wealthy speech' - for want of a better phrase - can overwhelm another candidate or an election.

If you narrowly read the 1st amendment as "Congress shall make no law...", then does that include a state legislature? In other words, could the Citizens United ruling in the future be refined to only apply to federal elections?

A state by that logic could pass a law prohibiting funding local elections (esp. judges) with money from out-of-state corporations, or business interests altogether, and only allow direct contributions.

I know this probably wouldn't survive a court challenge.

Steve M. Galbraith said...

'In other words, could the Citizens United ruling in the future be refined to only apply to federal elections?'

As I understand it, no. The Court, through incorporation, has extended the protection of the First Amendment against federal government regulation/restrictions to the states.

traditionalguy said...

Keep your eye on the prize. The issue here is not lack of restraints on money buying broadcast speech...because it is all bought all of the time. The issue is limiting it. Why does anyone want limit it unless you plan to win by creating a monopoly on speech. Oh, yeah, you just like less divisive talk? Well then, move to a Tyrant ruled country where the rough and tumble of crude electorial politics will never hurt your prescious feelings, and take David Brooks with you.

Jeremy said...

Supreme Court Ruling Spurs Corporation Run for Congress
First Test of “Corporate Personhood” In Politics

Following the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unlimited corporate funding of federal campaigns, Murray Hill Inc. today announced it was filing to run for U.S. Congress and released its first campaign video on www.youtube.com/user/murrayhillcongress

“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

Murray Hill Inc. is believed to be the first “corporate person” to exercise its constitutional right to run for office. As Supreme Court observer Lyle Denniston wrote in his SCOTUSblog, “If anything, the decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission conferred new dignity on corporate “persons,” treating them — under the First Amendment free-speech clause — as the equal of human beings.”

Murray Hill Inc. agrees. “The strength of America,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “is in the boardrooms, country clubs and Lear jets of America’s great corporations. We’re saying to Wal-Mart, AIG and Pfizer, if not you, who? If not now, when?”

Murray Hill Inc. plans on spending “top dollar” to protect its investment. “It’s our democracy,” Murray Hill Inc. says, “We bought it, we paid for it, and we’re going to keep it.”

Murray Hill Inc., a diversifying corporation in the Washington, D.C. area, has long held an interest in politics and sees corporate candidacy as an emerging new market.

The campaign’s designated human, Eric Hensal, will help the corporation conform to antiquated “human only” procedures and sign the necessary voter registration and candidacy paperwork. Hensal is excited by this new opportunity. “We want to get in on the ground floor of the democracy market before the whole store is bought by China.”

Murray Hill Inc. plans on filing to run in the Republican primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District. Campaign Manager William Klein promises an aggressive, historic campaign that “puts people second” or even third.

“The business of America is business, as we all know,” Klein says. “But now, it’s the business of democracy too.” Klein plans to use automated robo-calls, “Astroturf” lobbying and computer-generated avatars to get out the vote.

Murray Hill Inc. is launching the campaign with a website, Facebook page and YouTube video.

sierra said...

The first link ("Hmm") is malformed & inaccessible.

Synova said...

The Dems should listen to the Dem consultants.

They should also be careful about putting too much effort into vilifying corporations. (Going so far as to creating cute just-so stories for foot soldiers to cut-and-paste all over the internet.)

There is a limit. People love to distrust corporations and banks... but there is a limit beyond which a growing number of people will start to feel uncomfortable about their employment and will turn and defend their employer.

"But the case itself — quite aside from its real effect — is an issue that Democrats might chose to exploit "to paint the Republicans as allies of corporations, and to tout Democrats' populist credentials."

They might chose to do that, but it's not going to work if the tone of the populism is off.

And since paternalism only superficially resembles populism, on this can only fail.

After all... everyone clearly understood that the reason GM couldn't be allowed to fail was *jobs*. Right? And the other stuff, the bank stuff too? They can't fail because of *jobs*. Agree or disagree, that was the clear justification...

So turning around and making corporations in to the devil is a tricky business that can't ever reach the point of actually hurting the corporations without people catching on that this means their own job and their own paycheck.

Synova said...

Oh, and... it's a mistake to assume that because conservatives advise moderation, that the obvious thing to do is to double-down in the opposite direction.

The idea that wishing for Obama to fail is the *first* choice is a misconception. Sure, if he fails in a spectacular way changes come sooner, which is looking at a single positive aspect of something larger that isn't positive at all.

Most people would be happy with a moderated agenda closer to the center, (the actual center between right and left), and a President who projects strength and optimism instead of looking for domestic enemies.

Sigivald said...

My heuristic, which has served me well, is to count any populist or class-warfare or Us-against-the-powerful-faceless-Them rhetoric as a negative against the speaker.

Usually that means I reject the Democrat out of hand, here in oh-so-Progressive Oregon, but sometimes the Republican manages it, in a bit of classic self-sabotage.

Synova said...

Sigvald, I've never been able to quite figure out what populism actually means.

I thought it involved trade protectionism in foreign policy, and yeah, I guess a class-warfare thing domestically, and also a touch of workers-paradise but in a different direction than communism.

But I've also heard it used as an appeal to the "lower classes" that suggests that they aren't "lower classes" at all. Which is what I think that Palin does. An appeal to the strength and independence and efficacy of working people isn't the same thing as holding up an enemy.

I've been accused of populism for what are essentially libertarian ideas of independence, the individual, responsibility and personal worth, coupled with free market dynamics.

Rejecting elitism is hardly the same thing as class warfare. Feeling that one is equal to any one isn't the same as viewing the wealthy or those educated at elite Universities as the enemy.

Expressing that even the poorest person is capable and powerful and can take control of their own life with confidence isn't even remotely the same as telling the poor that the man (or banks, or corporations, or their horrible circumstances) are keeping them down.

All, however, are appeals to the same audience.

LakeLevel said...

The decision really wasn't a big deal for the union; they were spending all the political money they could afford anyway. Do you think it's a coincidence that the same day this decision came out, Air America folded? About the only advertisers on AA were unions. They were using their money to prop up this outfit for propaganda.
Here's article today on Hot Air about another way they got around Mccain-Feingold: http://hotair.com/archives/2010/01/29/another-good-reason-to-use-transparency-rather-than-mccain-feingold-for-reform

A.W. said...


So according to you only real flesh and blood persons are allowed to speak under the first amendment.

Well, the democratic party isn’t a person, either. Does that mean its speech can be banned? Does that mean we can pass a law that says that from this day forward the democratic party, and only the democratic party, is not allowed to speak?

How about the New York Times Company? In New York Times v. Sullivan, this corporation was held not only to have first amendment rights, but it was also held that the 14th Amendment incorporated those rights to the states. So 1st and 14th Amendment rights. A two fer.

In that case, Mr. Sullivan, a government official, claimed that the NYT had defamed him by running an ad by the NAACP. Applying the first amendment to the state defamation law, the Supreme Court held that when you were accused of defaming public officials, that the public official had to prove all of the ordinary elements of defamation, and the additional element of malice.

But I suppose by your logic, that case was wrongly decided, right?

And by the way, you never answered my question. why was it that Disney could create and promote “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but “Hillary: the movie” was verboten?

Oh right, because you LIKE the message in Moore’s movie.

Bruce Hayden said...

Victor David Hanson has an article out titled: The Obamarang. In it, he says that:

All politicians fudge on their promises. But this president manages to transcend the normal political exaggeration and dissimulation. Whereas past executives shaded the truth, Barack Obama trumps that: on almost every key issue, what Obama says he will do, and what he says is true, is a clear guide to what he will not do, and what is not true. It is as if “truth” is a mere problem of lesser mortals.

I read the article that the Democrats in general, and President Obama in particular, engage in an awful lot of psychological projection. And part of that is being seen here. His campaign turned off credit card verification towards election day, and as a result, donations exploded. Of course, some of those excess donations may have been internal, possibly people who had already donated to the legal limit. But there is reason to believe that much of that money bomb was foreign. Something like Clinton/Gore and the latter's Buddhist temple travails, only using credit cards over the Internet.

Lest you forget what was going on maybe 15 months ago, Glenn Reynolds discusses the Obama campaign and foreign donations right before the 2008 elections.

So, the natural assumption here is that President Obama, have likely been the recipient of millions in illegal foreign campaign donations, sees this as an avenue for the despised Republicans to also get some of them.

Fred4Pres said...

A commentator and two readers take Andrew Sullivan to the woodshed (could it be a moment of clarity on his part?):

Sonny Bunch raises an eyebrow:

Let me see if I understand Andrew correctly: President Obama engages in an unprecedented attack on the judiciary, botches the facts of the case at hand (or willfully distorts them for partisan political purposes), and has yet to correct himself…and Justice Alito is at fault for politicizing the judiciary? Seriously? Did that just happen?

A reader is less restrained:

I can’t help but think if Sarah Palin had mischaracterized a ruling you agreed with and if a Supreme Court justice you liked had done what Alito did, you’d be raking Palin across the coals for lying about the Supreme Court’s decision, for ignoring the separation of powers and you’d be lauding the counter-Alito.

Really Andrew, you’ve gone so far over to the other side, it’s now comical. Your sense of balance and fair play, your objectivity have been eroding for years. Now they’ve fallen completely apart. I still visit your site just to stay current on the cocoon you live in.

I guess I am part of the great unwashed, those ignorant ya-hoo’s who just don’t appreciate all the fine work our president and congressional majorities are doing for us. Damn me all to hell, I read everything you say and I still don’t get it. I must be crazy. Of course I should trust fully a process where senators are openly bribed and where we are assured endlessly that a program that exempts unions and congress, that doesn’t go into effect until Obama has run for office a second time, that “will save us money” (our government’s track record in that regard is surely comforting) and that will cap our costs but provide everything we had before (sure, doctors and hospitals work more for less money: who wouldn’t, given the opportunity?). And when the president pumps his numbers of ‘jobs saved’, clearly misstates a Supreme Court opinion and other mistakes already documented by the NYT, among others, I should just sit still and realize that I am a nihilist, vicious dumbass. Please.

Many conservatives were furious with Bush for his profligate spending. He had no choice on the bank bail out, nor did Obama (although Obama obscured his mere continuation of Bush’s policy, taking undue credit for his own role). But the continued spending is ridiculous. New programs are ridiculous and his fake freeze fools only those who were buying his BS in the first place.

Another reader makes the same point with somewhat less malice:

Judge Alito's reaction was an honest response to a lie told about him, to him. It was no more a departure from protocol than Speaker Pelosi's jack-in-the-box glee every time Obama proposed a vast new expenditure. Had Obama spoken honestly about a technical interpretation of a legal point, Alito should have been a statue. But that was not the case: Obama made up a fantasy--one which could easily cause a reasonable and learned judicial mind to have a reaction of revulsion. Had Alito sat stone-faced, the after-action report would have been that he "got told" and had to take it like a wayward toddler.

You betray your hero-worship of Obama when, in times when he is behaving in a ridiculous and ineffective manner, you run pictures of him from the campaign when he was standing around looking thoughtful, or speaking to his favorite kind of audience: tearful worshippers. Now you betray yourself further when you seek to make him immune to opposition.

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