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The .0000063% Election

Posted on Feb 18, 2012
Mait Jüriado (CC-BY)

By Ari Berman, TomDispatch

This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.

At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation—drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99%—electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063%. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80% of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.

These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice they’re just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability.

If 2008 was the year of the small donor, when many political pundits (myself included) predicted that the fusion of grassroots organizing and cyber-activism would transform how campaigns were run, then 2012 is “the year of the big donor,” when a candidate is only as good as the amount of money in his super PAC. “In this campaign, every candidate needs his own billionaires,” wrote Jane Mayer of The New Yorker.

“This really is the selling of America,” claims former presidential candidate and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean. “We’ve been sold out by five justices thanks to the Citizens United decision.” In truth, our democracy was sold to the highest bidder long ago, but in the 2012 election the explosion of super PACs has shifted the public’s focus to the staggering inequality in our political system, just as the Occupy movement shined a light on the gross inequity of the economy. The two, of course, go hand in hand.


Square, Site wide

“We’re going to beat money power with people power,” Newt Gingrich said after losing to Mitt Romney in Florida as January ended.  The walking embodiment of the lobbying-industrial complex, Gingrich made that statement even though his candidacy is being propped up by a super PAC funded by two $5 million donations from Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.  It might have been more amusing if the GOP presidential primary weren’t a case study of a contest long on money and short on participation.

The Wesleyan Media Project recently reported a 1600% increase in interest-group-sponsored TV ads in this cycle as compared to the 2008 primaries. Florida has proven the battle royal of the super PACs thus far.  There, the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, outspent the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, five to one.  In the last week of the campaign alone, Romney and his allies ran 13,000 TV ads in Florida, compared to only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-two percent of the ads were negative in nature, with two-thirds attacking Gingrich, who, ironically enough, had been a fervent advocate of the Citizens United decision.

With the exception of Ron Paul’s underdog candidacy and Rick Santorum’s upset victory in Iowa—where he spent almost no money but visited all of the state’s 99 counties—the Republican candidates and their allied super PACs have all but abandoned retail campaigning and grassroots politicking.  They have chosen instead to spend their war chests on TV.

The results can already be seen in the first primaries and caucuses: an onslaught of money and a demobilized electorate. It’s undoubtedly no coincidence that, when compared with 2008, turnout was down 25% in Florida, and that, this time around, fewer Republicans have shown up in every state that’s voted so far, except for South Carolina. According to political scientists Stephen Ansolabehere and Shanto Iyengar, negative TV ads contribute to “a political implosion of apathy and withdrawal.” New York Times columnist Tim Egan has labeled the post-Citizens United era “your democracy on meth.”

The .01 Percent Primary

More than 300 super PACs are now registered with the Federal Election Commission. The one financed by the greatest number of small donors belongs to Stephen Colbert, who’s turned his TV show into a brilliant commentary on the deformed super PAC landscape. Colbert’s satirical super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, has raised $1 million from 31,595 people, including 1,600 people who gave $1 each. Consider this a rare show of people power in 2012.

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By omop, February 20, 2012 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment

The more things change the more they are and continue to be the same.

‘Wall Street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people,
by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall
Street, and for Wall Street.’ - Mary Ellen Lease, lecturer, writer, and political
activist, advocate of women’s suffrage, Kansas Populist, a speech in 1890.

Is that like over 100 years or was that like yesterday?

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By aminahyaquin, February 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm Link to this comment

It seems to me to be extremely self-serving to the top 25% of our nation’s income grabbers, to focus attention and blaming on less than one percent of the populace who are global oligarchs, and really live in a world without national constraints.

The biggest problem in a democracy, as Aristotle pointed out, is that it has a natural tendency, unless its citizens are both virtuous and diligent, to decay into the plutocracy we have now.

And in our ugly new plutocracy, the 25% of income grabbers have also asserted a monopoly on almost every social good. That means that those MANY citizens who are able to afford to send all their kids to $45,000.00 a year private schools from pre-school to college, are the folks who are directly responsible for the mess our nation is in.

What is so peculiarly disturbing and scary is that most of the upper quadrant have become so insulated by wealth and privilege that they do not actually KNOW or APPRECIATE how the other three quarters of the populace strive to survive and prevail, and the extent to which we working poor are disenfranchized from meaningful, dignified, economically viable, safe, living conditions in our own nation.

We need to be honest about the sharing and changing necessary to reboot democracy, or we are going to increasingly be encumbered by social disarray, a reliance on criminal black market trade and a vice economy to pick up the slack from the mainstream loss of jobs, and violence that is increasingly cruel.

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By Lafayette, February 20, 2012 at 1:10 am Link to this comment


bern: but it is still the only game in town because which ever of the two factions wins, we still have the same system in place,

That ain’t necessarily so.

We have a two party system and the process, called the primaries, is presently taking place. It is in that process that we chose those who will represent us.

What must be done is to expand the number of progressives in Congress in order for its “colour” to change. Enough of the just the Blues and the Reds, both of which have got this country into its present peril - not to mention the 47% of Congress in the hands of millionaires.

The One Percent Occupy Congress!

Does anybody in their right mind think those millionaires are representing the interests of we, the sheeple?

Which means, everybody, get off your duffs and start militating for the sort of change (particularly in Congress) that will make a difference over the next ten years it will take to reform America.

To that end, I propose this Progressive Agenda for National Reform as a litmus-test for candidates with Progressive Stance. It’s just for starters, mind you, because the Progressive Movement must first be organized and then effectively elected into Congress.


Only then will any real reformation in America take place. It’s a long row to hoe, so let’s get started. The future well-being of our children will depend upon Our Success.

Want to remain sheeple all your lives, shorn regularly by an elite class that is making their riches off the backs of your hard work and consumption of goods/services?

Then do nothing.  Continue with the cathartic of bitching-in-a-blog and nothing will change. The rich do not read blogs … they do read the results of the election polls however.

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By berniem, February 19, 2012 at 3:12 pm Link to this comment

Wake up Amerika! All of this electoral nonsense is just what it is! Really, what are the people of this country voting for exactly? This nation is ruled by one party only. You may call it the Capitalist Party or the Corporatist Party or what have you but it is still the only game in town because which ever of the two factions wins, we still have the same system in place, namely a, for now, velvet-gloved version of fascism where the ruling elite wear Armani rather than military garb. The charade of the elections is just the means by which the plutocrats cull the herd for their future servants. Hey, it works better than occassional purges and deludes the public into thinking that they actually have a say in what goes on! Remember the English War Of The Roses between the Yorks and Lancasters? The outcome was that the aristocracy won and what difference did it ultimately make if the peasantry bowed before the red or white rose? Paties don’t matter; it’s the system that is rotten and must be completely overhauled. There is no such thing as a “free market” and the central premise of capitalism is not supply and demand and competition, but monopoly and total control and hegemony over all aspects affecting the economic lives of the world’s population ultimately by force and not by choices made by individual consumers! FREE BRADLEY MANNING!!!!!

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By Lafayette, February 19, 2012 at 7:31 am Link to this comment


AB: In truth, our democracy was sold to the highest bidder long ago, but in the 2012 election the explosion of super PACs has shifted the public’s focus to the staggering inequality in our political system, just as the Occupy movement shined a light on the gross inequity of the economy.

Yes, well put.

Income Inequality in America probably goes back to the inception of the country. It was grossly accelerated by the advent of the Industrial Age when those who worked the farm made their way to the large cities to work in factories. It was during this period that the wealth of the industrialist Robber Barons was first made.

As well, two economists, researching Income Disparity, found their data from the first income declarations made as a result of the 16th Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1913) that instituted a national Income Tax. Pickety & Saez demonstrated that Income Inequity goes back to early part of the 20th century.

The tax on upper incomes is shown historically in this info-graphic here. Note the info-graphic history and the fact that in both periods, one before the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the other the Great Recession of 2008/9, the income tax rate had been brought down to ridiculously low levels.

The second of those two periods commences with the Reagan Administration. And so?

So, each time we lower upper-income tax rates, money accumulates at the top and inevitably a cataclysm occurs in our country. This empirical evidence occurred twice in our history (on record). How many times must it occur before we learn the link between “cause and effect”? A third? A fourth? A fifth time? Which is kinda stupid.

One further piece of important empirical evidence, here. It is the same info-graphic above with a history of upper level income tax. But this time note the green line indicating our National Debt. 

During which years does the National Debt inflect seriously upwards. Of course, this is due to the fact that our government increased expenditures – but also because our Tax Revenues were not coincidently raised to cover that spending increase.

In other words, we were spending beyond our means – and come the SubPrime Mess the damn finally busted.

The rest is a history that we are still living.

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By Just a swimmer, February 18, 2012 at 2:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The US government and the many ignorant, corrupt phony experts have failed 99% of Americans for the last 30 years.

Most Americans believe that the Federal Reserve is a government department.  DECEIT-LIES!

The Federal Reserve is a privately owned corporation whose only goal is making its secret owners and share holders rich. 

The Federal Reserve must be replaced with a Federal Finance Department.  All banks and financial institutions should be nationalized or tightly controlled.  Profit making often is a sickness, an addiction which the “education for profit industry” shows.

For a documented history of the past and present financial crises and of other crises watch “The Secret of Oz”, a documentary movie, winner of 4 film awards.  Written and directed by Ben Still.

Beloit International Film Festival 2010   Best documentary (BIFF)
Yosemite Film Festival 2010                 Silver Sierra Award for Excellence in Filmmaking
Accolade Competition 2010                 Award of Merit La Jolla, California
Nevada Film Festival 2010                   Silver Screen Award
Nathan’s Economic Edge, 2009             Excellent review at a world top economics blog.
British premier Oct. 1, 2010                 At prestigious Bromsgrove conference

I’ve become wiser in my old age and do not believe most of what I hear or see in the various media and what is commonly accepted and considered history since my world travels and experiences have often contradicted and proved otherwise.

For more history on money, watch:

2.  All corrupted and ignorant politicians must be voted out of office.  Hint:  half of Congress members are millionaires that cannot relate to most Americans.

3.  MIC, the military-industrial-complex must be replaced with a military defense system that does not feed the US imperialism.  900 US foreign military bases cost one trillion dollars a year.

MIC has exponential growth in Afghanistan as posted by Nick Turse, February 12, 2012, in: add www.
Titled:    “450 Bases and It’s Not Over Yet
  The Pentagon’s Afghan Basing Plans for Prisons, Drones, and Black Ops”

U.S. aide to Afghanistan, +—$11 billion in 2011 and a similar figure for 2012.” -led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had nearly 400 bases in .  Today, Lieutenant Lauren Rago of ISAF public affairs tells TomDispatch, the number tops 450.—”

US gave—$11 billion in 2011 and a similar figure for 2012.

4.  Take the money out of politics(federal, state and local), special interest groups and lobbying.
No more secret meetings and communications between the government and special interests groups, lobbyists and any visitors.

The Corrupt Billionaires must be investigated, made public, tried and punished.  White collar crime is out of control, hurts billions of Americans and has severely damaged America.  The Secretaries of the Treasury were and are corrupt, ignorant and useless.

5.  Both parties are corrupted millionaires, puppets to the billionaires

Appears to be an excellent article in the
“How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich”
The inside story of how the Republicans abandoned the poor and the middle class to pursue their relentless agenda of tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent   Add www. Add www.

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