MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan will release his campaign finance jeremiad Greedy Bastards tomorrow, decrying the excesses of “Auction 2012.” In the meantime, the financial-journalist-turned-activist-pundit has a nice round 10 reasons why individuals and legally recognized groups of individuals shouldn’t have the right to financially support their candidate of choice. Most of his reasons have nothing to do with campaign finance per se, like his final point that “the middle class is collapsing.”
Poor Dylan’s timing isn’t great. As Dave Weigel noted, the Iowa caucus proved “money is speech, which means people can ignore it.” Rick Perry spent an astonishing $817 per voter, whereas second-place finisher Rick Santorum spent a measly $1.65, albeit with a robust ground game that included visiting every county.
To be fair, there are real problems with the way campaign contributions influence legislative decision making. Also, the impact of Super PACs has yet to be understood – they don’t make their disclosures until the end of this month, thanks to a filing loophole exploited by Romney, Huntsman, Gingrich, Santorum and now Paul-affiliated Super PACs. But Ratigan makes a mess of these issues. Here are some of his claims:
1) The Candidate With More Money Wins: From the 2008 elections: “In 93 percent of House of Representatives races and 94 percent of Senate races that had been decided by mid-day Nov. 5, 2008 the candidate who spent the most money ended up winning.”
Here, Ratigan dodges the related issue of incumbents winning re-election the vast majority of the time. As well as enjoying a more robust fundraising network, incumbents are also more familiar to voters. Sure, that gives them a leg up, but Ratigan confuses correlation with causation.
6) Outsider Movements Are Quickly Coopted Headline: Tea Party House Members Even Wealthier Than Other GOP Lawmakers.
This point is maybe the least credible. Did anyone who saw the Tea Party House members’ intractability over the payroll tax cut extension really claim that they’ve been co-opted by the establishment? The Tea Party has been the GOP establishment’s biggest headache since the debt ceiling fight this summer. Those looking for a legitimate source of corruption should read Peter Schweitzer’s Throw Them All Out, which talks about the various ways in which elected officials can get rich while in office.
This one doesn’t have anything to do with campaign finance or crooked electioneering, but the irony of Ratigan’s statement makes it just too good to leave out. For the host of a daily cable news show – an extremely histrionic host, given to bully pulpit antics – to say horse race coverage is unpopular is strange, to say the least – he’s betting against his own team.
9) Cash Determines Voting What shaped the House vote on the proposed Keystone Pipeline? Oil industry lobbying: “As important as the vote total in the House, however, was another number: within minutes of the vote, Oil Change International had calculated that the 234 Congressional representatives who voted aye had received $42 million in campaign contributions from the fossil-fuel industry; the 193 nays, $8 million.”
There are way more plausible explanations for why the pipeline, as Mitch McConnell said, “needs to be part of the package,” and Ratigan is right that it doesn’t have much to do with job creation. Republicans in the house tied the Keystone pipeline to the payroll tax cut extension as a political move to divide Obama’s support among environmentally-conscious Dems.