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The .0000063% Election

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

By Ari Berman, TomDispatch

(Page 3)

In the 2010 election, the 1% of the 1% accounted for 25% of all campaign-related donations, totaling $774 million dollars, and 80% of all donations to the Democratic and Republican parties, the highest percentage since 1990. In congressional races in 2010, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidate who spent the most money won 85% of House races and 83% of Senate races.

The media loves an underdog story, but nowadays the underdog is ever less likely to win. Given the cost of running campaigns and the overwhelming premium on outspending your opponent, it’s no surprise that nearly half the members of Congress are millionaires, and the median net worth of a U.S. Senator is $2.56 million.

The influence of super PACs was already evident by November 2010, just nine months after the Supreme Court’s ruling. John Nichols and Robert McChesney of The Nation note that, of the 53 competitive House districts where Rove’s Crossroads organization outspent Democratic candidates in 2010, Republicans won fifty-one. As it turned out, however, the last election was a mere test run for the monetary extravaganza that is 2012.

Republicans are banking on that super PAC advantage again this year, when the costs of the presidential contest and all other races for federal posts will soar from $5 billion in 2008 to as high as $7 billion by November. (The 2000 election cost a “mere” $3 billion.)  In other words, the amount spent this election season will be roughly the equivalent of the gross domestic product of Haiti.


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The Myth of Small Donors

In June 2003, presidential candidate Howard Dean shocked the political establishment by raising $828,000 in one day over the Internet, with an average donation of $112. Dean, in fact, got 38% of his campaign’s total funds from donations of $200 or less, planting the seeds for what many forecast would be a small-donor revolution in American politics.

Four years later, Barack Obama raised a third of his record-breaking $745 million campaign haul from small donors, while Ron Paul raised 39% from small dollars on the Republican side.  Much of Paul’s campaign was financed by online “money bombs,” when enthusiastic supporters generated millions of dollars in brief, coordinated bursts. The amount of money raised in small donations by Obama, in particular, raised hopes that his campaign had found a way to break the death grip of big donors on American politics.

In retrospect, the small-donor utopianism surrounding Obama seems naïve. Despite all the adulatory media attention about his small donors, the candidate still raised the bulk of his money from big givers. (Typically, these days, incumbent members of Congress raise less than 10% of their campaign funds from small donors, with those numbers actually dropping when you reach the gubernatorial and state legislative levels.) Obama’s top contributors included employees of Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and Citigroup, hardly standard bearers for the little guy. For obvious reasons, the campaign chose to emphasize the small donors over the big ones in its narrative, as it continues to do in 2012.

Interestingly enough, both Obama and Paul actually raised more money from small donors in 2011 than they did in 2008, 48% and 52% of their totals, respectively. But in the super PAC era that money no longer has the same impact. Even Dean doubts that his anti-establishment, Internet-fueled campaign from 2004 would be as successful today. “Super PACs have made a grassroots campaign less effective,” he says. “You can still run a grassroots campaign but the problem is you can be overwhelmed now on television and by dirty mailers being sent out… It’s a very big change from 2008.”

Obama is a candidate with a split personality, which makes his campaign equally schizophrenic. The Obama campaign claims it’s raising 98% of its money from small donors and is “building the biggest grassroots campaign in American history,” according to campaign manager Jim Messina. But the starry-eyed statistics and the rhetoric that accompanies it are deeply misleading. Of the $89 million raised in 2011 by the Obama Joint Victory Fund, a collaboration of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Obama campaign, 74% came from donations of $20,000 or more and 99% from donations of $1,000 or more.

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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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