Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcome To Florida, 2012 Year Of Election

Just as the month ends, I get a blog entry in, with a hopefully subtle insert of my estory available for download from BN.com right in the post title...  :grin:

As I type this, the Republican primary race is counting up votes for delegates right here in the Sunshine State.  Since my last observation about the GOP primaries, there's been a few changes: Perry and Huntsman both dropped out, Newt Gingrich actually won a state that shouldn't have been so surprising (South Carolina...), and even with the state of Florida already projected to go heavily to Romney, there's every sign that Newt is determined to stick in the race well up to the convention.  Partly because he thinks he's got a shot at winning the Deep South/Baptist type of voters like he did in SC, but mostly because of that damned ego of his.  (NOTE: Ron Paul was obviously in this race to the end, like in 2008.  Mostly on principle, but partly because he gets to hang out with libertarian-esque celebrities...)

What's different this year is the money.  The sheer amount of it.  An insane amount of money that can allow a losing candidate to keep running when in previous election cycles anyone stuck behind third place when Florida's primary kicked in would have dropped out for lack of funds.

Say hello to the world created by the Citizens United ruling.  This allowed third parties - deep pocket rich people, corporate lobbyists, unions - to form their own "committee" (PAC) in support or opposition of any candidate.  While they could do this before, laws were passed to cap the amount of money raised and donators had to be identified.  But Citizens United dumped the cap and the requirement to ID the big donors, meaning an unlimited amount of money can now flow into a third party Super-PAC that could aid a candidate.  As long as the Super-PAC and the candidate's official campaign did not coordinate with each other (YEAH RIGHT), it was "perfectly legal".

What this has done has allowed candidates and any campaign for that matter to raise as much money as they can without fear of revealing who is sending in the million-dollar checks.  As long as it goes to that Super-PAC, which can then pay for the expensive television ads, campaign gatherings, etc.

Fund-raising for official campaigns seem to be a bit low (UNDERSTATEMENT) compared to the amount of money the Super-PACs flout.  But basically the problems are right there for all to see (if they want to see it):
  • The assumption that candidates will NOT coordinate with their Super-PACs is ludicrous, laughable, or worse (Romney and Gingrich have to know full well what their PAC buddies are doing when creating attack ads against each other);
  • This allows the richest of the rich who can afford to toss $30 million at a candidate and not even blink to basically buy the favors of that candidate.  Anyone thinking there won't be any quid pro quo doesn't understand the concept of a bought politician;
  • Only the rich can even consider running for office, not because of the seed money to start a campaign but because poor people don't know anyone able to afford $30 million for a Super-PAC;
  • This is, simply put, legalized bribery.
The only noticeable effect, the one everyone does notice, is that it can prolong a primary season.  Where I complained previously about how the state-by-state primary system was broken because most of the choices had dropped out by the third or fourth state, making it unfair that only the early states - Iowa, New Hampshire - got to decide for the rest of us, now the opposite problem arises: the possibility of the primary season turning into one long slug-fest between deep-pocket campaigns that will tear each other down to the point that whoever wins the primary will be too unlikeable to win the general election come November.
The solution I have about a One-Day Primary for all states is still a good idea.  But first we gotta get the legalized bribery out of our elections process.  We need public financing for elections.

And the Primary results in Florida?  I hope the winner is None Of The Above...