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Change Big Donors Can Believe In

Posted on Oct 22, 2008

By Amy Goodman

  Change is at hand. Barring a repeat of the protracted Florida recount of 2000, there will be a victor soon in the U.S. presidential election.

  With the economic crisis, change is something in your pocket that you want to hold on to.

  The campaigns are not dealing in small change, though. Their coffers, particularly the Democrats’, are swelling with larger and larger bundles of cash, ensuring that politicians will remain beholden to special interests and wealthy donors. Don’t hold your breath waiting for the extended television discussions of this, because it’s the broadcasters who profit the most.

  Barack Obama broke records with recently announced September fundraising levels that exceeded all predictions, bringing in $150 million. Since Obama opted out of the public financing system, he can spend freely from his war chest right up to the election. John McCain accepted public financing and has limits imposed on his campaign, with $84.1 million in public money to spend in the general election. McCain is now outspent on advertising by the Obama camp by 4-to-1.

  The Obama campaign has “flooded the zone” with advertising. It has a full-time “Obama Channel” on Dish Network. Ads have been inserted into video games like “Guitar Hero.” The campaign has bought a full 30 minutes of prime-time airtime on NBC, CBS and Fox, six days before the election. Fox moved the start time of the World Series to accommodate the ad buy.


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  Obama’s campaign is credited with receiving an unprecedented number of small donations from among its historic 3.1 million donors. Campaign manager David Plouffe says the campaign’s average donation is under $100. A Washington Post analysis of Federal Election Commission data shows, though, that only a quarter of this vast number of donors fall into the “small” category (under $200), which is a smaller percentage than that achieved by George Bush in his 2004 run.

  According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonprofit group that tracks campaign contributions, the funds raised in presidential campaigns has skyrocketed. The 1976 campaign, the first campaign that included public financing, saw a total of $171 million raised (about $570 million, adjusted for inflation). The current campaign weighs in at close to $1.6 billion, and the group expects the total to reach $2.4 billion. While donations to candidates are supposed to be limited to $2,300 for the general election (an additional $2,300 is allowed for the primary season, per candidate), huge loopholes exist. Most notable are the “joint fundraising committees,” in which the presidential candidate partners with his party to form a fundraising organization. McCain and the Republican National Committee’s is called McCain Victory 2008 and can receive donations as high as $70,000, which then get distributed to the presidential campaign, the national party and to key state parties. Obama and the Democratic National Committee created the Obama Victory Fund, to which donors could give $28,500. As The Washington Post just reported, the Democrats found that sum too limiting, so they created the Committee for Change, which allows donors to give up to $65,500. That’s a helluva lot of change.

  Bill Buzenberg, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, told me, “What is wrong with this is, after this election, the people have bundled and put together big pots of money are going to come back to whoever is elected, and they will be looking for access and influence.”

  The $2-billion presidential race also guarantees vast profits for the broadcasters, the national networks and the local television stations. Hundreds of television stations are using the public airwaves, imposing themselves between the candidates and the public.

  Access to the public airwaves for political candidates should be free. Says Buzenberg: “Every local television station I have been to, I say, ‘How do you do in election years?’ They say, ‘We buy new cameras, new sets.’ It is a huge benefit to them. The commercial broadcasters are cleaning up this year like never before, and you’ll never hear them questioning the system that allows so much money to come back to them.”

  Is public financing of campaigns dead? A year ago, Sen. Obama said, “I have been a longtime advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests.” Regardless of who the winner is, the next president will enter the White House with a long list of major donors to thank.
  Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
  Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

  © 2008 Amy Goodman

  Distributed by King Features Syndicate

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By old steve, October 25, 2008 at 6:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To achieve indignation in the ‘average joe sixpack’ there are a few choices:  1. reduce the issues to ‘survival’ and ‘economic’ stories… showing how private donations often result in the elimination of the interests of the ‘average joe six pack’...
#2.  Recognize that its a big circus- a Yippie Celebration of the Absurd and the Corrupt.  Like guerilla theatre it is time for the         ‘legitimate’ counter culture journalists to create messages defining the current events in a clear metaphonr such as a circus. The Pedantic and somber factual reporting only reduces the interest of the ‘swing voters’.  My hat’s off to AG and her selfless sacrifice for our salvation. ’ Camelot’ has not returned…only the delusional dream of the romantic times of JFK has been promulgated for mass consumption by the innocent. CAn we at least start with recognition of ‘political propaganda’??  I’ve found that the Nader Campaign actually offers hope and an anchor in these troubled times.

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By Andreas Klamm Journalist, Radio IBS Liberty, October 24, 2008 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

Dear Amy Goodman !

First of all I want to congratulate you for receiving the Right Livelihood Award.

As I am an independent journalist and author of several books since 1984 and the founder of IBS Independent Broadcasting Service Liberty, Radio IBS Liberty, IBS Television Liberty, I am the producer of a radio and television coverage about the Right Livelihood Award Foundation. You are the first journalist ever which is going to receive this award as a journalist. This is very special and I am happy for you! I do believe that your are a very good broadcast journalist and author.

“...Access to the public airwaves for political candidates should be free. ...”

During a regional 2005 election for the county I got all four possible political candidates on my educational television programon on public access television. Each candidate had 1 hour to talk and tell our viewers their aims and their plans for a political change, which we do need in Germany, too.

We have received not one single Cent for a lot of work, however we had to manage somehow by miracle to pay the invoices for the equipment, electricity, phone calls, fax, internet, tapes, traveling a lot, etc…

As an independent and alternative investigative journalist and author my total income for the last 2 months was less than 50 U.S. Dollars, since 19 months I do have NO ACCESS to medical treatment of any kind. It is quite though to survive under such conditions and to produce independent or alternative radio and television progams. I am not a business man but broadcast journalist, journalist and author. From the state in Germany I do not receive neither do accept money for political reasons and because I do not want to get manipulated as an altenative author and journalist.

However the state has been asking me to pay federal tax and I payed the tax for my small business.

As you have written, no matter who will become the next President of the United States of America. The victor will have a long list of donors to give THANKS.

My hope is that I will get a chance to get you on my radio and television programs for some interviews. A request for an interview has been already send to your office.

As I am still working under such poor conditions I will give THANKS for the miracle if I might be able to donate 25 U.S. Dollars for your program “Democracy Now!” which is one of the best progams I ever have seen and I am free to write this as I am since 24 years since 1984 a broadcast journalist and alternative radio- television- film and media producer, too.

It is not wrong to receive money but all of us should consider how we are going to receive money and we should calculate what will be the “price” which we have to pay for receiving money. We will always loose a part of our liberty, as long as there are not more people which will give money without trying to influence us or actually try to silence the independent and alternative voices which need to be heard on radio on television and which have to be printed in the papers.

Perhaps we should consider not always to GIVE money to influence a man or a woman but give money as FREELY as FREE as we perhaps receive some money, some times.

However if we have no money than all we can do is to say THANK YOU and to PRAY. If we mean THANK YOU from our heart, than it might be good and therefore I give THANKS a lot to you, Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez and the Democracy NOW!-Team. Stay as good as you are, PLEASE. Best wishes.

Andreas Klamm, Journalist, author, broadcasting host of “Liberty and Peace NOW!,, XXL-info, IBS Tea Time”
founder and director of
Radio IBS Liberty
IBS Television Liberty
IBS Independent Broadcasting Service Liberty, support international understandig sincee 1986

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By sam, October 24, 2008 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

i think the ending fits the article perfectly..sorry cyrena, but obama isn’t going to save you or any of us, just to let you know.

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By cyrena, October 23, 2008 at 12:18 am Link to this comment

This seems like an odd way to end this piece..

“...Regardless of who the winner is, the next president will enter the White House with a long list of major donors to thank….”

If it’s true about the major money that broadcasters are making, why wouldn’t THEY be ‘thanking’ the new president?

As for Obama’s small donors, (more of us than there are of the biggies, even if they donated as much) he’s been thanking us all along. (I’m very poor on my fixed income, so I’m one of the ones who has donated less than $100.00 over 3 donations, but I get ‘thanked’ regularly).

Meantime, I’m THANKING him for running. Lot’s of us are. Otherwise, we would have needed to accept that we were doomed. We may still be. But at least now, there’s a possibility of getting out of this ditch, or further back from the edge of the cliff that so many have already fallen over…fatally.

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