A new round of campaign finance disclosures by the Republican campaigns for President showed once again how SuperPAC spending has driven the race almost entirely this year.
The super PAC backing Mr. Romney, Restore Our Future, raised $6.6 million in January and spent close to $14 million, much of it on advertisements battering Mr. Gingrich in Iowa and Florida. A super PAC backing Mr. Gingrich raised much more that month — almost $11 million — and spent most of it on attack advertisements against Mr. Romney in South Carolina, where Mr. Gingrich won, and in Florida, where Mr. Romney prevailed [...]
Bolstered by Mr. Romney’s extraordinarily high burn rate, the campaigns spent about $5 million more during January than the super PACs supporting them. But over all, super PACs backing the four leading Republican contenders raised $22.1 million in January, slightly more than the candidates themselves, and ended the month with $19.4 million in cash on hand, about $5 million more than the candidates had.
Most of that money came in six- and seven-figure checks from just a few dozen individuals or corporations — the billionaire casino executive Sheldon Adelson, the mutual fund investor Foster S. Friess and the PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, among others — who have exploited recent court rulings and changes in campaign finance rules to exert unprecedented influence over their party’s choice of presidential nominee.
So if Mitt Romney’s team wasn’t going out for steaks every night, the shadow campaigns would be both out-raising and out-spending the “official” campaigns. I recognize that Citizens United didn’t invent outside spending on political activities. But it sure seems to have normalized it.
Certainly, the wealthiest of the 1% no longer feel constrained to curtail their purchase of a President. Gingrich benefactor Sheldon Adelson told Forbes that he plans to spend $100 million on the election this year:
“Those people are either jealous or professional critics,” Adelson tells me during his first interview since he and his wife began funneling $11 million, with another $10 million injection widely expected, into the former speaker’s super PAC, Winning Our Future. “They like to trash other people. It’s unfair that I’ve been treated unfair—but it doesn’t stop me. I might give $10 million or $100 million to Gingrich.” [...]
“I’m against very wealthy people attempting to or influencing elections,” he shrugs. “But as long as it’s doable I’m going to do it. Because I know that guys like Soros have been doing it for years, if not decades. And they stay below the radar by creating a network of corporations to funnel their money. I have my own philosophy and I’m not ashamed of it. I gave the money because there is no other legal way to do it. I don’t want to go through ten different corporations to hide my name. I’m proud of what I do and I’m not looking to escape recognition.”
Lest you believe that Adelson would shrink away once Gingrich implodes, he says later that he’ll support whatever candidate emerges. Overlooking the paranoia at work here, what you have is a rich person deciding that it’s not enough to make billions, but that he must also create a government in his image. George Soros didn’t spend nearly as much in 2004 – the only Presidential election in which he really competed – as Adelson or probably any other billionaire will in 2012. And this will resonate up and down the ballot.
It truly is the best democracy money can buy.