The political spending tidal wave: Enter the billionaires | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 7, 2014

The political spending tidal wave: Enter the billionaires

Posted By on Fri, Mar 7, 2014 at 7:14 AM

YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET: National money will cover the spending gap in Ross-Hutchinson race and flood airways with attacks such as this.
  • YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHING YET: National money will cover the spending gap in Ross-Hutchinson race and flood airways with attacks such as this.

Democrat Mike Ross has — and probably will continue — to outraise likely Republican gubernatorial opponent Asa Hutchinson. But a fairly obscure congressional race in Florida illustrates why that isn't as important as it once might have been.

The Center for Public Integrity reports here that candidates in a race for a Florida U.S. House district special election — of scant importance in current House control — have been outspent 2-1 by outside money. 

Outside political groups spending more money than candidates during an election used to be exceedingly rare. Now, it's increasingly common in the big-money era following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in January 2010.


“It’s an incredible amount of money for one district,” said Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for public interest advocacy group Common Cause. “It drowns out the voices of ordinary people.”

Moreover, Boyle continued, the advertising deluge “causes cynicism and confusion” because the ads’ onscreen disclaimers often provide little information about the actual funders of the messages or their legislative agendas.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who lives in Arkansas and watches television. Independent advertising has been underway for weeks here — funded by huge outside ad buys — in both the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor and extremist Republican Rep. Tom Cotton. The same in the governor's race. National Republican money has been particularly in evidence in recent days because of Mike Ross' recent rise in the polls. That inspired a huge ad buy with a drumbeat of Obama incantations to like Ross to the Arkansas-despised black president. We'll never have a clear and ready idea of where this money comes from. The same for all the billionaire-backed independent groups — see the Koch Bros. — who'll be waging war on Democrtic candidates.

$10 million seems like a lot of money.  For a billionaire like Koch, it's chump change. Do the arithmetic, it's the same as a $1 contribution by somebody with $100.

Mike Ross can continue to outraise Hutchinson 2-1 but there will be a Koch or a Rove or similar ready to see his money and raise it several fold.

Why do I think Ross will outraise Hutchinson? Because there's never been a fund-raiser like him and because Hutchinson has never been so good at it and has three losing statewide races to tamp down enthusiasm among the usual Arkansas political contributors. Ross, too, despite national efforts to brand him as a D.C. liberal is anything but. Business people are comfortable with him as they were with Mike Beebe. Well, maybe not THAT comfortable.

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