He who has the gold makes the rules. And so it is under the new campaign finance system that those funding politicians have increasingly decided they want their influence to extend to campaign strategy. Without the old restraints campaign consultants and strategists have no choice but to heel to a donor-centric campaign system that puts donors in the drivers seat.
The trend among Republican billionaires seems not only to be a reflection of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision but a sense of betrayal at the failure of Karl Rove and other operatives to succeed in the 2012 election despite promises made.
The Republican donors who have financed the party’s vast outside-spending machine are turning against the consultants and political strategists they once lavished with hundreds of millions of dollars.
In recent months, they have begun holding back checks from Republican “super PACs” like American Crossroads, unsatisfied with the groups’ explanations for their failure to unseat President Obama or win back the Senate. Others, less willing than in the past to defer to the party elders and former congressional staff members who control the biggest groups, are demanding a bigger voice in creating strategy in exchange for their continued support.
All that money and the only international summits Mitt Romney attends is when his horse dances in the Olympics (true story).
So now Karl Rove and fellow shake-down artists are being marginalized in favor of in-house operations where the billionaires have more control and oversight over how their millions are being used to corrupt our republic.
“People are really drawn to the Koch model,” said Anthony Scaramucci, a New York hedge fund investor and Republican fund-raiser, who attended the Kochs’ annual donor conference near Palm Springs, Calif., in January. “It’s adaptive, data-driven, and they are the most propitious capital allocators in political activism.”
The quiet revolt signals a broader shift in the world of big money. Clubs of elite donors in both parties are taking a more central role in shaping policy and campaigns, displacing party leaders and the outside-spending organizations they helped create after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. And the sheer scale of their spending is almost certain to rewrite the playbook for political campaigns this year, as candidates reckon with the strongly held views of some of the world’s wealthiest people.
It’s like a stock market for politicians. Auctions instead of elections.
Then again, there is no certainty that billionaires will be any better at campaign strategy than party hacks. Lucky for them the previous generation of oligarchs and their toadies in government have so rigged the game in their favor even when they lose, they don’t lose much. Buying the political system is the last asset left, capital already owns everything else.
Image from Federal Reserve under public domain.