With the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court turned money into a form of political speech, paving the way for enormous influxes of cash from the American ultra-elite one-percent-of-one-percent, and, to a lesser extent, organized labor (money given to the GOP by big business dwarfs labor's contribution to the Dems by a factor of about 2.5). The extent to which this has distorted American politics is only now becoming apparent, as statistics about SuperPACs and their "donations" are gathered and published. In this Salon report, Justin Elliott publishes some eye-opening figures about the new political reality in money-as-speech America.
Especially concerning: 80 percent of the money sloshing around in America's SuperPACs' warchests came from just 58 donors.
The Super PACs are not paragons of transparency, but what has been disclosed gives a sense of where the money is coming from and the interests of those giving it. Based on the donors and the origins of these groups, we can already discern what messages the Super PACs will generate in the home stretch of the campaign.
Red money, blue money: The making of the 2012 campaign
If you watched Rick Perry's viral campaign video Strong, perhaps you were struck with by how it seemed a little off (and no, I don't mean the fact that a blowdried asshole like Perry recorded a video of himself conducting a homophobic rant while wearing the gay cowboy costume from Brokeback Mountain). No, it was something more sinister and weirder. Something about a rant that goes, "$INFERIOR_HATED_MINORITY has infiltrated our soldiery, and what's more, our educational institutions have prohibited $DOCTRINE_THAT_WE_EMBRACE from being taught to children at government expense."
If, like me, you struggled for an apt comparison, perhaps you, like me, will discover what you seek in this simple bit of netmemery. Maybe this explains how Mr Perry came to produce YouTube's most hated video.
Vote for Lord Perrymort 2012!
Mike from Mother Jones sez, "For our upcoming "dark money" print package, we chartified the known
galaxy of outside political spending groups by their size. As you can see,
we ended up with red giants and blue dwarfs."
If Citizens United was the Big Bang of a new era of money in politics, here's the parallel universe it formed: rapidly expanding super-PACs and nebulous 501(c) groups exerting their gravitational pull on federal elections. A group's size in the chart below is based upon all known fundraising or spending since 2010…so keep an eye out for dark matter. Come back for regular updates.
The Crazily Expanding Political Money Universe
Democratic congressional candidate Ray Lutz was arrested for registering voters in San Diego's public Freedom Plaza (AKA Civic Center Plaza), where the local Occupy protest has taken place. The San Diego police arrested Mr Lutz for trespassing and confiscated his voter registration forms.
I've been skeptical of the "this is what democracy looks like" slogan (since mostly, democracy looks like boring things like long meetings, constituency consultations, and voter booths). But by any measure, registering voters in a civic square is assuredly "what democracy looks like." And arresting people who register voters? Well, that's something else altogether.
Ray Lutz being arrested at Freedom Plaza - Occupy San Diego
The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, is angry that a conversation between him and a rightwing candidate for Parliament was recorded by a cameraman - so angry that he's reported the matter to the police which is now going to raid TVNZ, Radio NZ, TV3 and another, unnamed media organisation.
Key set up a stage-managed meeting between him and John Banks from the rightwing ACT Party, with media in attendance.
The meeting over a cup of tea was to discuss the candidate from Key's centre-right National Party folding in the wealthy electorate of Epsom, Auckland, in favour of Banks.
National needs Banks to win Epsom, to form a coalition with ACT.
A cameraman was stopped from retrieving his microphone that he'd left on Key and Banks' table while media was allowed inside the cafe where the meeting took place, and says he recorded the "private" conversation inadvertently.
The recording itself hasn't been published by anyone yet. Key and National has refused to give permission to publish the recording, but say it was "bland".
In NZ, it's a crime to record other people without their knowledge.
I'm somewhat ambivalent about covert recording, but it seems clear that this isn't merely about investigating the act of recording, or punishing someone who broke the law. This feels like a campaign of intimidation against the institution of the press itself, whose subtext is, "Cover politics with kid gloves or we will make your lives hell." Meanwhile, Key has defended his use of police time by saying his government has done so much to eliminate crime that the police have spare time they can use to pursue his vendettas.
John Key defends resources used on tape investigation
After Herman Cain drew an utter blank when an interviewer asked him how he felt about Obama's handling of Libya, and proceeded to unconvincingly fake a response, Andrew Sullivan rounds up the responses of bloggers around the net, from Cain's supporters and detractors alike.
Drezner invokes the mercy rule:
There's a mercy rule in Little League, and I'm applying it here -- unless and until Herman Cain surges back in the polls again, or manages to muster something approaching cogency in his foreign policy statements, there's no point in blogging about him anymore. I can only pick on an ignoramus so many times before it feels sadistic.
Pamela Geller, who previously endorsed Cain, calls it an "unrecoverable moment":
This is just unacceptable, Herman. ... He is not ready.
Of course, this is just the latest in a string of Cain blunders.
Cain Draws A Blank
(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
[Video Link, via Tim Heidecker] This one's classic, meaning it came out back in August when no-one was paying attention.
LaHaine sez, "According to the first prognosis, the German Pirate Party has entered the state parliament of the city-state of Berlin with 8,5% of the votes, counting for 14 of a total of 149 seats."
Wahl-Spezial: Alles zur Abgeordnetenhauswahl in Berlin - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik
Princeton's Andrew Appel writes on Freedom to Tinker about an illegal cover-up of New Jersey e-voting irregularities. The Princeton team have done amazing technical and investigative work on electronic voting machines, and Appel's piece (the first of three) demonstrates exactly the sort of dangers that e-voting critics have long warned of.
1 New Jersey court-ordered election-security measures have not been effectively implemented.
NJ election cover-up
2 There is a reason to believe that New Jersey election officials have destroyed evidence in a pending court case, perhaps to cover up the noncompliance with these measures or to cover up irregularities in this election. There is enough evidence of a cover-up that a Superior Court judge has referred the matter to the State prosecutor's office.
3 Like any DRE voting machine, the AVC Advantage is vulnerable to software-based vote stealing by replacing the internal vote-counting firmware. That kind of fraud probably did not occur in this case. But even without replacing the internal firmware, the AVC Advantage voting machine is vulnerable to the accidental or deliberate swapping of vote-totals between candidates. It is clear that the machine misreported votes in this election, and both technical and procedural safeguards proved ineffective to fully correct the error.
Germany's Pirate Party is kicking major electoral ass, holding 50 local elected offices across the country, and are now poised to win their first federal electoral contests:
“We are delighted that our demands for more transparency, participation and democracy for the people of Berlin are shared by the public. The Berlin people want change, and they recognize that a vote for the Pirate Party is not wasted,” Pirate Party’s Gerhard Anger said.
German Pirate Party On Course to Election Win
“With this poll result we are not in the state parliament yet. However, it is an important step in the right direction. We have to work hard in the next four weeks. In order to see the results of this poll reflected in actual votes on election day, we still have to keep on going,” Anger adds.
Previously the German Pirate Party already held a seat in the national parliament when Jörg Tauss left the Social Democrats to join the pirates. However, having people voted into parliament through an election would be an even bigger accomplishment.
(Image: Pirate party!, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mapkyca's photostream)