2012 election cost a monstrous $6 billion

Gaius Publius writing at Americablog comments on a recent New York Times article on this election cycle’s monstrous cost. I suggest reading the NYT article then read Gaius’ commentary here—one of two posts he is writing on money in this past election. The second post will deal with foreign contributions, which, he notes, appear to be “banned from public discourse.”

In his first post on 2012 election spending, Gaius covers the main players: Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, wrestling executive Linda McMahon, and other oligarchs and what they gave. He also mentions Joe Ricketts, owner of the Chicago Cubs who spent almost $13 million to attack President Obama on federal spending. Gaius’ comment:

See what happens when sports owners are made invisible to the fans? Fans give them their money to spend against them. Dumb; really dumb. Take that, Cubs fans. And don’t worry, there’s plenty more waiting. You give him the wherewithal, every losing season.

So will a more politicized and politically enlightened electorate put heat on elusive arch-conservative sports owners? Will fans begin to boycott games over an owner’s massive right wing political spending aimed squarely against their interests? Interesting thought as we move on from a startling election that resembled the awakening of a sleeping giant—a brown-faced electorate that will no longer tolerate Republican attempts to suppress their voices and votes.

In one of his most interesting insights, Gaius fingers corporate owned networks and TV stations as deeply invested in perpetuating our massively expensive elections. He asks:

Where did all this money go? Most of it went to the media:

Remember how I said above that the media — the networks and TV stations — were a huge part of the [election reform] problem? Most people only look at the front end of the election system. They see how Big Money buys candidates who pay them back with favorable laws, low taxes, and lack of prosecutions.

But think of the candidate as just a pass-through for the cash. The money starts somewhere (Our Betters); they give it to campaigns and campaign surrogates; tons of people take a very generous cut; and it ends up somewhere. The candidate isn’t bought with the money; the candidate is bought with electoral office.

What does most of that money actually buy? TV time. Very expensive TV time. Think for a minute from the standpoint of the network or TV station owner:

■ I the media owner have a broadcast license that, in practice, I can never lose. (I pray daily to the Great God Clinton, blessings on his name, for that one.)

■ I have a political system that allows me to charge big bucks for what used to be free — access to TV for candidates.

■ I have a campaign financing system that dumps unlimited money into the pockets of politicians and their supporters — and that money needs to be spent.

■ Who do they spend it on? Me.

As a general rule, 75% of campaign money goes to media and communications, and while I don’t have the TV numbers (national and local), I’d bet that TV accounts for the bulk of it.

And this is why we may never get low-cost uncorrupted elections. It’s not just the candidates who are corrupted. Everyone who touches that money is corrupted — especially the end-user, our national and local media. They will kill to keep things just like this. Wouldn’t you, if you were a monomaniac money-seeker (sorry, corporate-profit-responsible CEO)?

I’ll link to part 2 of Gaius’ comments on money in the 2012 election when he posts it.