Oligarchs R US
January 17, 2016 6:02 AM   Subscribe

In the 2016 elections, the goal of the Koch network of contributors is to spend $889m, more than twice what they spent in 2012.
Dark Money though prominent is not confined to the political right.
How dark money affects elections.
posted by adamvasco (32 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
You get about one Supreme Court Justice per term. Citizens United was basically 5:4. Let's end this shit.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:48 AM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


First step needed to cut money pouring in: drastically cut time to elect officials. The longer it takes, the more money needed by potential candidates for ads etc. Clearly the circus that has been funding the cable channels--the GOP contenders--has been going on some two years and a lot of money pours into this as well as into Democratic politics.
posted by Postroad at 6:53 AM on January 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


You get about one Supreme Court Justice per term. Citizens United was basically 5:4. Let's end this shit.

That's exactly why they're trying to buy the election. All they need is 1 Republican SCOTUS appointment to roll back everything since 1929.
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:00 AM on January 17, 2016 [16 favorites]




That's exactly why they're trying to buy the election. All they need is 1 Republican SCOTUS appointment to roll back everything since 1929.


Thank goodness the Republicans have completely lost control of their primary. Here I was thinking Democrats were the only ones who could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:42 AM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


This article in The Economist suggests that "Of the money the Kochs have spent on politics, broadly construed, the portion directed to campaigns really is negligible." What the Kochs have done is "building and supporting civil-society institutions meant to shape public opinion and politics over time ... It is through this channel, not through lobbying or campaign spending, that the Kochs have most affected American politics." That is to say, by donating to colleges whose cultural bent they admire, creating endowed chairs, and donating to non-election-based charities that promote their cultural interests, the Koch brothers have had a broader, long-impact effect on society, that may affect elections way downstream.

This article in the New York Times gives evidence that campaign spending doesn't affect outcomes as much as spenders would hope.

I personally dislike the "They outspend us, and that's why we lose" narrative because it seems like a kind of learned helplessness. It's psychological surrender. There are enough examples of the lower spender winning hotly contested elections to give hope to those who are pure of heart.
posted by Modest House at 7:45 AM on January 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


Thank goodness the Republicans have completely lost control of their primary. Here I was thinking Democrats were the only ones who could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

I'm very worried that the Democratic Presidential nominee will lead to a low-turnout election all-around, which may not affect the White House but will affect a lot of state and local races, further entrenching Republican control of redistricting.

I personally dislike the "They outspend us, and that's why we lose" narrative because it seems like a kind of learned helplessness. It's psychological surrender. There are enough examples of the lower spender winning hotly contested elections to give hope to those who are pure of heart.

It's quite possible to see the dark money spending as less about swinging any one election *directly* and more about laying the groundwork for the wider attitudes that shift populations' voting patterns. Advertising is part of how the messages of those civil-society institutions get their ideas out there; even if it doesn't get the voters out for candidate X, it plants the ideas that candidate X and their ilk represent.

The bigger fear, and a legitimate one, is that politicians *believe* that campaign spending influences elections, and that they can and do make quid pro quo calculations and take ideological stances depending on what might attract certain patrons.

As a result, we're also seeing dark money shaping the primary process in unpleasant ways, ways that affect not only general elections but also political discourse more broadly. The Kochs and others are not stupid; if they are spending on elections even when they don't get election results, it is worth considering what *other* results they might be getting.
posted by kewb at 7:51 AM on January 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


Thank goodness the Republicans have completely lost control of their primary. Here I was thinking Democrats were the only ones who could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Don't give up, it's still possible. Poll: 20% of Dems would defect for Trump. There's a plausible case that Trump pulls enough support from Hilary to win in places like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio (Warning: 2nd link is National Review).
posted by T.D. Strange at 7:54 AM on January 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't understand why Citizens United cannot be overturned. This thing should have been laughed out of court altogether. My argument is that I have 339.88 units of free speech in my bank account while Koch brothers have above 100 billion units of free speech. All men are created equal and all that...
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 8:01 AM on January 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


The effect of money is all too evident in the makeup of the republican clown car, and getting evident on the democratic side too:

People get there not on the basis of being competent lawyers or administrators. They get there by being good at talking septegenarian oligarchs out of lots of money.

That's how you get a serious risk of unintelligent candidates like Scott Walker being POTUS.
posted by ocschwar at 8:19 AM on January 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Monkey, the question is can you deprive conservatives of the forms of speech amplification they tend to control (profitable chemical companies and casinos and white evangelical churches) but not liberals of the forms of speech amplification they tend to control (universities, unions, newspapers, black churches). One person, one voice would cut both ways.
posted by MattD at 8:42 AM on January 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Charlie Stross: The paranoid style in 2016:
2007 is when the human species accidentally invented telepathy (via the fusion of twitter, facebook, and other disclosure-induction social media with always-connected handheld internet devices). Telepathy, unfortunately, turns out to not be all about elevated Apollonian abstract intellectualism: it's an emotion amplifier and taps into the most toxic wellsprings of the subconscious. As implemented, it brings out the worst in us. Twitter and Facebook et al are fine-tuned to turn us all into car-crash rubberneckers and public execution spectators. It can be used for good, but more often it drags us down into the dim-witted, outraged weltanschauung of the mob.

It turns out that when you take the old paranoid-style driven give-us-all-your-money mailing list scams (and their old-media spin-offs like Fox News and Clear Channel's talk radio shock jocks) and add telepathy, what you get is the whole festering stew of the Neo-reactionary movement, a scream of rage directed against the modern world.

[...]

But here's the key take-away: 2016 will be the first US Presidential Election where the outcome will be visibly influenced by telepathic broadcasts direct from the political id, with the more plugged-in candidates (cough, Donald Trump) speaking in tweets rather than TV-friendly sound-bites and making their play in real time to their audience reactions, much like the plot of a novel co-written by Neal Stephenson before he got famous.
If cstross' analysis is on point, post-Citizens United style blanketing of the airwaves with campaign ads seems almost quaint when you can just jack right into the brains of voters using YouTube clips and free coverage from media organizations that thrive on the spectacle.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:50 AM on January 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


If cstross' analysis is on point, post-Citizens United style blanketing of the airwaves with campaign ads seems almost quaint when you can just jack right into the brains of voters using YouTube clips and free coverage from media organizations that thrive on the spectacle.

Hell they even have full-length attack ads in the theater.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:55 AM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Who turned Southland Tales into a documentary?
posted by jonp72 at 9:17 AM on January 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Monkey, the question is can you deprive conservatives of the forms of speech amplification they tend to control (profitable chemical companies and casinos and white evangelical churches) but not liberals of the forms of speech amplification they tend to control (universities, unions, newspapers, black churches). One person, one voice would cut both ways.

Conservatives: the combined megawattage of the stadium equipment of ZZ Top, Ted Nugent, and Metallica
Liberals: an old guitar amp from Woolworth's that's been sitting in someone's dad's garage since 1966

Solution: 120 volts and 15 amps for everyone!
posted by hangashore at 10:02 AM on January 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hillary erred in calling it the "VRWC" -- what she was referring to is really the vast right-wing message machine.

Unlike conspiracies, it exists out in the open, working to move the country to the right since it it was spun up a decade-plus after the JBS got going (Heritage, Manhattan, Hoover, AEI, Cato, etc etc etc . . .)

How we form our world outlook is much like pachinko balls falling down a machine, the stories you are exposed to early determine where you'll end up.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 10:16 AM on January 17, 2016


In 1938, the patriarch wrote that “the only sound countries in the world are Germany, Italy and Japan”. To make sure his children got the right ideas, he hired a German nanny. The nanny was such a fervent Nazi that when France fell in 1940, she resigned and returned to Germany. After that, Fred became the main disciplinarian, whipping his children with belts and tree branches.

OMFG! Assuming this and the other things in that article are true, is there any way these guys are not full-on nazis attempting to create something like a 4th Reich?
posted by VTX at 11:35 AM on January 17, 2016


It's interesting that the right wing's response to Obama's presidency has involved the ceaselessly-repeated claim that America has been lost to true Americans, with the clear implication that White supremacy is existentially threatened and that this above all else constitutes an existential threat to all that is quintessentially American; meanwhile, the near-complete regulatory capture of the elections process has resulted in the mortal compromise of many key regulatory functions of government, which seems to me like the threat to America's very being that Republicans and right-wing types have been making the Obama administration out to be.

In fact, it's hard not to suspect that, with the Koch brothers and their ilk engaging in the communicative equivalent of banging pots and pans together over Obama per se, they've thereby been helping themselves by distracting people from the fact that they're engineering a plutocratic coup of the apparatus of government itself.
posted by clockzero at 12:57 PM on January 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


Am I wrong or would overturning Citizens United not affect the Koch brothers' ability, as private citizens (rather than forming or giving money to SuperPACs), to spend money on outside attack ads on political candidates?
posted by gyc at 2:32 PM on January 17, 2016


GYC: does it not revert back to some kind of "in-kind" donation at the point Citizen's United is overturned?
posted by Annika Cicada at 3:56 PM on January 17, 2016


> I personally dislike the "They outspend us, and that's why we lose" narrative because it seems like a kind of learned helplessness. It's psychological surrender. There are enough examples of the lower spender winning hotly contested elections to give hope to those who are pure of heart.

Statistical tendencies matter. Regardless of individual losses and wins, if the environment is shaped such that a particular side tends to win, eventually that side will win. It's sort of like how in states that require legislative majorities to cut benefits but legislative supermajorities to raise taxes, benefits will eventually be cut and taxes eventually raised.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:53 PM on January 17, 2016


Winning candidates tend to have more money than losing candidates.

Everyone assumes that the money makes them win. But in many cases the people with money look for the likely winners and throw money at them so they can have influence with the soon-to- be incumbent.

Of course, this is pretty bad for democracy. But it suggests a different set of concerns than the fear of rich people buying elections for the "other party." Much easier for the really rich to buy both parties.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:15 PM on January 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Am I wrong or would overturning Citizens United not affect the Koch brothers' ability, as private citizens (rather than forming or giving money to SuperPACs), to spend money on outside attack ads on political candidates?

You are correct. At most they might be required not to use the magic Buckley words "vote for" or "vote against."

But in many cases the people with money look for the likely winners and throw money at them so they can have influence with the soon-to- be incumbent.

Also most/many losing candidates are just terrible candidates that nobody sane would donate too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:26 PM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]




they're engineering a plutocratic coup of the apparatus of government itself.

Ing?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:38 PM on January 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


One person, one voice would cut both ways.

I have to wonder if all the grousing about and scapegoating of unions is really just about making it easy for conservatives to keep gaming the system. Only 11% of America's employed are in unions, and whatever power they might once have had has been all but eliminated by a thousand paper cuts of state and federal restrictions.

Poll: 20% of Dems would defect for Trump.

However, 95% of Democrats would still blame Nader for losing them this election, even after voting for Trump. Count on it.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:57 AM on January 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Modest House: I personally dislike the "They outspend us, and that's why we lose" narrative because it seems like a kind of learned helplessness. It's psychological surrender.

But as you cited from The Economist, "Of the money the Kochs have spent on politics, broadly construed, the portion directed to campaigns really is negligible." What the Kochs have done is "building and supporting civil-society institutions meant to shape public opinion and politics over time ... It is through this channel, not through lobbying or campaign spending, that the Kochs have most affected American politics."

Emphasis mine - that's not to say that their coordination of almost one billion dollars isn't effective, it's saying that's not their strongest tool. The Koch brothers are playing a huge, long game, and they're winning over investors by offering a "suite of tools" to change the country. Sure, they'll lose some elections even after dumping a ton of money on that, but they also win elections.


Heywood Mogroot III: Unlike conspiracies, [vast right-wing message machine] exists out in the open ...

Except as noted by Modest House upthread, the Koch brothers' efforts are so broad and diverse, and that is what is so hard to track and fully define. As stated by Jane Mayer in her NPR interview about her new book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, Charles has been moving towards this vision since the 1960s.


How broad is their reach? Until you know that, you can't quantify the impact of their combined efforts. Scary thought: if Citizens United is overturned, what if the Kochs just shift their investments into more diversified, harder to track endeavors, like recruiting more students from colleges and universities, which is harder to curtail.

Honestly, my only hope is that when they die there is no one so focused, driven and wealthy as to take their place, and their network fractures and becomes less effective than it is today. Charles is 80, David is 75. I don't wish them death, just a lessened impact upon the world.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:32 AM on January 20, 2016


I guess I wonder what you think they're doing wrong when they are "building and supporting civil-society institutions meant to shape public opinion and politics over time..."? That's what rich people tend to do. That's what George Soros and Bill Gates do (much more effectively, I might add.) It's also what religious groups do, what universities do, what communists do, what feminists do, etc. It almost seems to be built into the human endeavor. So it can't be that the whole anxiety is "these guys are trying to persuade people to agree with them" can it? Isn't that better than blowing the money on private islands and mile-wide ball pits?

I get the anxieties about buying elections, even if I think they're largely mis-identifying the kind of problem money in politics actually is. But what's wrong with using wealth to get people to consider your point of view? If the worst thing they've done is put out videos decrying the minimum wage, then why do they end up being the Big Bad all the time? The academic economist evidence on the minimum wage is super-equivocal, so the worst thing you could say about the Kochs (on that issue) is that they're wrong about something about which basically no one knows the right answer for sure.

Sometimes I hear conservatives talk about George Soros this way, and I can't help thinking they've made a mistake. But perhaps I'm the one making a mistake.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:22 AM on January 20, 2016


Outside elections some of the Oligarchs are are financing some very undemocratic actions.
This has particular significance considering what is presently happening in Oregon.
Billionaire Koch Brothers’ AFP Endorses ‘Patriot’ Militia Movement At Bundy Ranch.
posted by adamvasco at 11:45 AM on January 20, 2016


It does exist on the Left as well. Funding from Mr. Bloomberg on campaigns and actual legislation writing is pretty much the only reason several states have passed any new gun control measures.
posted by bartonlong at 2:23 PM on January 20, 2016






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