In his State of the Union speech this week, Barack Obama bemoaned a Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations to spend their money on advertising in the final weeks of an election cycle and to spend as much money as they like doing so. Obama declared that it would mean a deluge of money that would drown out the voices of ordinary citizens. However, McCain-Feingold didn't do anything to prevent that kind of a deluge, and one case in particular demonstrates how the money flows more dishonestly and with less transparency in a campaign-finance regulatory scheme. Lee Doren looks at the case of a new campaign effort called TheTeaPartyIsOver.org, and who's behind it:
It is paid for by the American Public Policy Committee. Well, according to opensecrets.org, the two donors for American Public Policy Committee this year are Patriot Majority and Patriot Majority West.
However, according to opensecrets.org, the 2nd largest contributor in 2008 to Patriot Majority was SEIU and other top Unions around America. I imagine the diversion of Union money gets much deeper than this.
Under McCain-Feingold, unions had the same limitations as other corporations did on spending money. They found a new channel, hiding two layers below the public effort of TTPIO by using a front group called Patriot Majority, which provided all of the declared funding for APPC. Take a look at the list of top donors for PM in the 2008 cycle:
Out of $8.2 million total in contributions from the top 15 donors, $7.4 million explicitly came from unions. The two largest contributors in the 2008 cycle were AFSCME and SEIU, which are heavily allied with Democrats and the Obama administration. The two unions represent government workers at the state and federal levels, and in fact in combination provide almost all representation of public-sector employees.
Moreover, nothing on the website itself shows that it got most of its funding from Big Labor — and unions fell into the same spending restrictions in McCain-Feingold as corporations. But the website's front page targets three Republican candidates for electoral office, a big no-no under McCain-Feingold and its speech restrictions, although they couch it in terms of "tell [them] to reject the dangerous ideas of the Tea Party."
Does this look like we've chased money out of the process? Or does it look more like we've made influence harder to spot by allowing the creation of front groups and shady channels for cash? It's exactly this kind of big-special-interest manipulation that has given rise to the Tea Party movement — and why Big Labor is so ardently trying to kill it off.
I think we can all agree that the current system just isn't working, and anyone who says otherwise is, well, running for office. Go figure.