It’s not only Film Fest time and Halloween season — election day’s coming up. This week, courtesy of our own Patrick Rodgers, we give you interviews with all three Georgia gubernatorial candidates: Roy Barnes, Nathan Deal, and John Monds.
(They’re presented in alphabetical order, for any knuckleheads who want to accuse of us bias.)
Earlier this year I wrote a column titled “We the Corporations,” about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the name of free speech to allow unlimited donations to outside political groups, which are then free to use that money to pay for political advertising.
I’m happy it was one of the best–received columns I’ve written, but I’m sorry I had to write it, because the situation isn’t getting better.
The move towards granting corporations full citizenship rights on par with actual humans has been going on for quite some time, but that crucial Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling took things to the next level, with predictable results.
A deluge of outside money, some of it from foreign sources, has flooded this year’s campaigns, in some cases making what would normally be sleepy local affairs into vectors for the kind of corporate cash that once were reserved for only the most high–profile races.
The tsunami of cash is making a mockery of a democracy which was already on life support. Money isn’t everything — witness Meg Whitman’s flailing gubernatorial campaign despite spending $120 million of her own money — but it’s certainly something, or else donors wouldn’t be so eager to donate and politicians wouldn’t be so eager to soak it up.
As tilted as the playing field already was toward big moneyed interests, the difference between American politics before Citizens United and after nearly defies description:
• Outside spending in this year’s election season is up 91 percent — basically double — from 2008, a presidential year.
• A single so–called SuperPAC (a political action committee set up specifically to take advantage of Citizens United), Karl Rove’s American Crossroads, is expected to contribute over $250 million to Republican campaigns.
• In Colorado alone — the 24th most populous state — $23 million in outside money has been spent so far.
• The U.S. Chamber of Commerce poured over $5 million into campaigns just last week.
• Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch donated $1 million to Republican gubernatorial candidates in the name of his “fair and balanced” network’s parent company.
• As a recent New York Times column put it: “Every day sets a new record. Last Friday, there were 1,200 television ads in Las Vegas for the Senate race.”
Over a thousand political ads on TV. In one day. In one city.
So who is benefiting most from the Supreme Court ruling?
Clearly, the mainstream media appreciates it, because they’re getting a huge influx of ad revenue during a time when revenue is down.
As for political parties, both Republicans and Democrats alike are equally eligible to reap advantage from these unregulated contributions, as are the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and I guess The Rent is Too Damn High Party as well.
Labor unions and advocacy groups like PETA and the Sierra Club also saw their free speech rights expanded by Citizens United. But anyone with a modicum of civics education could have predicted the deluge of funding would benefit the side that most favors big corporations. (At last count American corporations were sitting on at least $1 trillion in cash holdings. That’s cash.)
When corporations were given unlimited free speech rights it was only natural that their “free speech” would monetarily benefit the political party most likely to do their bidding.
Specifically: Republicans have received eight times the amount Democrats have in outside spending post-Citizens United.
This is not to shed any tears for the rudderless Democrats, who through their usual hazy focus, too-clever-by-half gamesmanship and tendency to splinter along racial, ethnic and sociopolitical lines have largely botched their control of the federal reins.
They will almost certainly lose control of the House of Representatives this Tuesday, and regardless of which side you’re on you’d be hard-pressed to say they don’t deserve to lose.
In any case, the modern Democratic Party is nearly as beholden to corporate interests as Republicans are, as evidenced by President Obama’s tepid efforts at Wall Street “overhaul” and his version of health care “reform,” which is predicated on mandating coverage for 40 million new insurance customers.
The fact that right wingers and Tea Partiers are so vitriolic in their rhetoric against Obama’s essentially staid, corporatist ideology only shows how extreme they themselves have become.
Perhaps the most outrageous aspect of the current state of campaign financing is that donations from foreign sources are completely unregulated.
A recent investigation found that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has accepted donations from such patriotic, apple pie, all-American sources as the Kingdom of Bahrain.
Ah, yes — oil–rich Middle East sheikdoms donating to U.S. political campaigns. What could possibly go wrong?
Another outrageous part of current campaign finance law is that the identity of donors doesn’t have to be disclosed. (To be fair, the Supreme Court supports full disclosure. Congress took up a bill to force identification of donors, but it was quashed by Senate Republicans.)
It would be nice to think that the Tea Party would address these issues of foreign influence and donor transparency, since so much of their rhetoric revolves around American exceptionalism and grassroots organization. But so far, barely a peep from them on the subject.
Anyway, whichever side wins out this Tuesday, you’ll know you’ll have the best government money can buy. Enjoy!
ABOUT THE FILM FESTIVAL: Of course this is also our huge Savannah Film Festival special issue, in case you didn’t already catch on.
Besides excellent design work from our art department, headed by Brandon Blatcher, I have to give a special shout-out to our A&E Editor Bill DeYoung, who truly out-did himself by taking on the vast bulk of the Film Festival advance coverage.
When Connect Savannah interviews various actors, directors, and writers involved in Savannah Film Festival movies, in most cases we’ve actually seen the movies we’re writing about. We try to get review copies of these films in advance before we interview anyone — not a standard practice in the rest of your local media, to be sure.
ABOUT THAT OTHER FILM FESTIVAL: The ‘Movies Savannah Missed’ series from Psychotronic Films is holding a full day marathon of campy horror flicks all day Sunday at Muse. Check out Patrick’s story this issue.
ABOUT HALLOWEEN: To find out the best way to combine your nightlife with the Halloween season, check out our spotlighted gigs in “Noteworthy” in this week’s Music section.
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"And you deserve better."
Thanks, Jim, for my new campaign slogan.