By Karen Ocamb
You might want to sit down for this bit of news: a record four billion dollars will be spent on this year’s midterm elections, according to an Oct. 27 estimate by the non-partisan watchdog group, Center for Responsive Politics
The “major milepost in influencing U.S. political elections” surpasses the money spent in the 2004 election cycle with Republican President George W. Bush seeking re-election against Democratic Sen. John Kerry—not to mention all the congressional races and anti-gay state initiatives. “Overall this cycle, outside groups, including the national party committees, unions, trade associations, nonprofits and 'super PACs' such as American Crossroads have so far favored Republicans. Conservative-oriented groups have spent $1.34 for every $1 liberal-affiliated groups have spent, the Center’s data show,” a story on the Center’s website reports.
“And the Republican outside spending advantage is even more pronounced: Republican-aligned and conservative groups so far this election season have spent $2.12 for every $1 that Democratic-aligned and liberal groups have spent, according to the Center’s analysis.”
The Democratic Party, however, has done well this year—spending $782 million compared with the Republican Party’s $515 million.
But while party committees may be restricted to funding limits, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling that money equals individual free speech has enabled “corporations, trade associations, unions and nonprofits … to raise unlimited contributions for political messages—and numerous corporations and wealthy individuals have invested millions to fund advertisements this year. Funding political advertisements with such high-dollar donations was previously illegal.”
Major industries have switched allegiance, too, the Center reports, with the healthcare industry now giving 60 percent of its money to Republicans after the health care reform bill, compared to two-thirds of its dollars previously going to Democrats. Wall Street and the energy sectors have also shifted their campaign spending from Democrats to Republicans.
"I think they've got their finger in the air. I think they're looking at the changing poll numbers and seeing that the Republicans have a clear shot at taking the majority, particularly in the House," Center Executive Director Sheila Krumholz told CNN
Apparently, the Supreme Court thought
corporate contributions would be subject to disclosure laws. But election experts say that tax loopholes and a weak Federal Election Commission has enabled corporations and big spenders to give huge sums for campaign ads without fear of public exposure.
"The biggest change this year is that it is no longer possible to identify the individuals who are responsible for funding election communications," said Karl J. Sandstrom, a former FEC commissioner who advises Democrats on election law, told the LA Times
The Citizens United
ruling has also enabled the rise of political action groups, such as Republican strategist Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS and Dick Morris’ Super PAC for America
, which have raised and spent millions for their favorite candidates and issues.
Bradley A. Smith, a former FEC chairman who opposes campaign finance laws, told The Times, "Voters do know who is funding the ads—every single one of them.” He noted that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Crossroads GPS have disclosed its spending on election ads, though not the identity of their donors.
"Is there anybody who doesn't know where the chamber is coming from?" Smith asked. "None of this troubles me in the least."
Who’s contributing to whom and for what reason is an issue with which the LGBT community is familiar.
Fred Karger, the openly gay political consultant who is now seriously considering a run
for the Republican presidential nomination, exposed the millions of dollars funneled
into Protect Marriage and the Yes on 8 campaign by the Catholic and Mormon churches. Karger filed suit against the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) for violating state campaign laws and subsequently worked with the Courage Campaign and the Human Rights Campaign to create the ongoing watchdog money-tracking effort NOMExposed
The political and legal tactic buck state and federal campaign disclosure laws actually came out of the Prop. 8 campaign when NOM and Protect Marriage complained that their donors should be protected from retaliation by No on Prop. 8 supporters. The tactic carried over to the federal Prop. 8 trial, where some of the witnesses for the proponents of Prop. 8 refused to testify if the trial was broadcast outside the courtroom. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld their request
, albeit more because they said District Court Judge Vaughn Walker had not followed some court rules. NOM and Protect Marriage ran with their successful “victims” meme
into other arenas.
How seriously should these outside interest groups be taken? Well, the powerful and once logically safe Barney Frank is worried. In fact, he’s contributed $100,000 to his own campaign and National Stonewall Democrats has an ACT BLUE page to help raise money for him
Stonewall says: Rep. Barney Frank is in a tough fight against a candidate who doesn’t believe in marriage equality, doesn’t believe DADT should be repealed and doesn’t think ENDA is a good idea. National Stonewall Democrats is standing up to help the “father of our organization” by helping get the word out this warrior for equality needs our help.
This is from an email fundraising appeal from Dick Morris: You may have read the extraordinary news that Barney Frank felt he had to personally loan his own campaign fund $200,000, adding to the almost $3 million he had raised from fat-cat donors. This means he’s sweating. He’s worried he could lose. Believe it or not, Barney Frank could lose his seat. He’s in trouble because he’s the poster child for the mortgage mess and the housing collapse.
Morris goes on to report that, “Washington insiders are telling me that as many as 75 Democrats could be defeated and that a total of 113 Democrats are vulnerable! This is like a live auction. Do I hear a bid for 100? The more you give, the more damaged trees we can chop down. We’re almost up to the $4 million mark. For each extra $1 million we raise, we can beat seven more Democrats! I must make additional ad buys for this weekend, the Super Bowl weekend for congressional politics!”
Other Republicans have been equally giddy and candid about what these midterms could mean for the Tea Party-GOP. For instance, Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told the National Journal magazine that "the single most important thing we want to achieve [after winning back the majority in Congress] is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
And House Minority Leader John Boehner vowed
that Republicans will not "compromise on our principles" if they win the majority in the House. Boehner is expected to replace Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
This is the electoral climate today. It is an atmosphere where an independent ad on Spanish language TV for GOP candidate Carly Fiorina can claim that liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer
voted against immigration reform, which PoliticFact.com called “misleading.”
While few mainstream media outlets reported on the lie and hence some critical Latino voters could believe that – hopefully they read La Opinion, which endorsed Boxer
on Oct. 27.
Boxer stopped by a get out the vote effort organized in 24 hours by Stonewall Democratic Club in West Hollywood. “What you’re doing here is crucial,” Boxer said, noting that the voters know “what’s at stake in this election.” (See a video
from Patch/West Hollywood) Stonewall Democratic Club president John Cleary noted that Boxer’s campaign called with 36 hours notice because “she wanted to talk to the LGBT community.” Apparently she was somewhat surprised to see a nice turnout from straight seniors, too, many of whom receive notices from or are members of Stonewall.
Boxer said she should be sent back because of all the issues at stake in the election—from DADT to off-shore drilling and the energy initiative funded by two Texas oil companies—vote NO on Prop. 23, she said.
Frontiers noted the national LGBT disappointment with President Obama and asked for her reaction to the disruptions of her events by GetEqual. Boxer didn’t really answer the question, saying only “This is MY campaign and my election!” Later, Cleary told Frontiers he was surprised that someone from GetEqual didn’t attend the event, but added that someone told him that GE was only protesting Obama, not Boxer.
Eric Bauman, chair of the L.A. County Democratic Party and vice chair of the state Democratic Party, jumped in and said, “There is NO enthusiasm gap here!” His energetic retort was greeted with applause.
Boxer only mentioned how she stood up for the effort to repeal DADT and pass the DREAM Act, which provided a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—both of which failed to pass as attachments to the Defense Authorization bill. Boxer took her disappointment to the Senate floor – you can see that video
As both Boxer and Bauman noted, the latest poll may have her up over Fiorina by five points—but nothing matters until those votes are cast. MoveOn.org
is still calling
for volunteers for her campaign.
Politicians have tried to buy California votes before—most notably in 1998 when rich Al Checchi and Jane Harman ran for the Democratic nomination for governor—which was finally won by not-so-rich Gray Davis who had a great ground operation (thanks in no small part to Eric Bauman). Now California is seeing a barrage of ads from Karl Rove’s American Crossroads for Fiorina and continued self-financing by former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who has spent $160 million of her own money against Democratic rival Jerry Brown in the California gubernatorial race—and Whitman is currently trailing. It didn’t help that she was booed loudly at the California Women’s Conference
when she refused to agree with Brown to take down their negative ads. (See video
of the exchange here.)
As of Thursday, Oct. 28, San Francisco DA Kamala Harris—who the national media calls “the female Obama”—is up slightly over her Republican rival, L.A. DA Steve Cooley, for state Attorney General. Both candidates are targeting L.A. voters, without whom one cannot win a statewide election.
Geoff Kors, Executive Director of Equality California, thinks a Harris win is critical for marriage equality and LGBT civil rights.
“The attorney general and governor have the power to determine whether our taxpayer dollars will be spent defending Prop. 8 in court or whether the State of California will continue to stand on the side of equality and justice,” Kors wrote recently
“Where do the candidates stand? Jerry Brown and Kamala Harris have promised not to stand on the side of bigotry and hatred. Both have vowed not to defend Prop. 8 in court and to advocate for full equality. Because of their strong support for marriage equality and for a myriad of other rights critical to securing full equality for LGBT people, they have been endorsed by Equality California. If elected, we can count on them to be our champions.
"Meg Whitman and Steve Cooley have both promised to defend discrimination. Rather than supporting the rights of all Californians to be treated equally under the law, they would seek to set aside the sweeping federal district court ruling declaring that laws banning marriage equality violated the United States Constitution—a powerful ruling that has national implications in the fight for equality. Whitman and Cooley are willing to put the U.S. Constitution aside to pander to right-wing interests.”
Only two things can counter the massive influx of money trying to buy this year’s midterm election on Nov. 2: transparency and your vote.
Frontiers does not make endorsements—so here are links to trusted organizations that do:
Additionally, for progressives there is a website called Call Out the Vote
—a Get Out The Vote effort coordinated by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Democracy for America working to elect or re-elect targeted leaders such as progressive caucus co-chair and strong ally Raul Grijalva. It enables you to make calls from home via their site.
BOLD (fuschia) Denotes out LGBT candidate
Click for printable version PDF
U.S. SENATOR BARBARA BOXER*
GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM
SUP. OF PUBLIC INSTR. TOM TORLAKSON
SECRETARY OF STATE DEBRA BOWEN*
ATTORNEY GENERAL KAMALA HARRIS
CONTROLLER JOHN CHIANG*
TREASURER BILL LOCKYER*
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER DAVE JONES
U.S. REP DIST 27 BRAD SHERMAN*
U.S. REP DIST 28 HOWARD BERMAN*
U.S. REP DIST 29 ADAM SCHIFF*
U.S. REP DIST 30 HENRY WAXMAN*
U.S. REP DIST 31 XAVIER BECERRA*
U.S. REP DIST 32 JUDY CHU*
U.S. REP DIST 33 KAREN BASS
U.S. REP DIST 34 LUCILLE ROYBAL ALLARD*
U.S. REP DIST 35 MAXINE WATERS*
U.S. REP DIST 36 JANE HARMAN*
U.S. REP DIST 37 LAURA RICHARDSON*
U.S. REP DIST 38 GRACE NAPOLITANO*
U.S. REP DIST 39 LINDA SANCHEZ*
U.S. REP DIST 45 STEVE POUGNET
U.S. REP DIST 46 KEN ARNOLD
SENATE DIST 20 ALEX PADILLA*
SENATE DIST 22 KEVIN DE LEON
SENATE DIST 24 ED HERNANDEZ
SENATE DIST 26 CURREN PRICE*
SENATE DIST 28 JENNY OROPEZA*
SENATE DIST 30 RON CALDERON*
SENATE DIST 32 GLORIA NEGRETE MCLEOD*
ASSEMBLY DIST 36 LINDA JONES
ASSEMBLY DIST 38 DIANA SHAW
ASSEMBLY DIST 39 FELIPE FUENTES*
ASSEMBLY DIST 40 BOB BLUMENFIELD*
ASSEMBLY DIST 41 JULIA BROWNLEY*
ASSEMBLY DIST 42 MIKE FEUER*
ASSEMBLY DIST 43 MIKE GATTO*
ASSEMBLY DIST 44 ANTHONY PORTANTINO*
ASSEMBLY DIST 45 GIL CEDILLO
ASSEMBLY DIST 46 JOHN A. PEREZ*
ASSEMBLY DIST 47 HOLLY MITCHELL
ASSEMBLY DIST 48 MIKE DAVIS*
ASSEMBLY DIST 49 MICHAEL ENG*
ASSEMBLY DIST 50 RICARDO LARA
ASSEMBLY DIST 51 STEVEN BRADFORD*
ASSEMBLY DIST 52 ISADORE HALL*
ASSEMBLY DIST 53 BETSY BUTLER
ASSEMBLY DIST 54 BONNIE LOWENTHAL*
ASSEMBLY DIST 55 WARREN FURUTANI*
ASSEMBLY DIST 56 TONY MENDOZA*
ASSEMBLY DIST 58 CHARLES CALDERON*
ASSEMBLY DIST 61 NORMA TORRES*
STATE. BOARD OF EQ. (4th DIST.)
LA COUNTY ASSESSOR JOHN NOGUEZ
California Supreme Court
Carlos Moreno - YES
NO on Ming Chin (Voted Twice Against Marriage Equality)
California Court of Appeals Associate Justices
Second District Division 2 Judith M. Ashmann YES
Second District Division 5 Orville "Jack" Armstrong YES
Second District Division 6 Steven Z. Perren YES
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE NO. 28
MARK K. AMELI
SUPERIOR COURT JUDGE NO. 117
Proposition 19 (Legalization of Marijuana) Yes
Proposition 20 (Redistricting of Congressional Districts) No
Proposition 21 (Vehicle License Surcharge for Parks) Yes