Sunday, October 30, 2011

GOP: A Political Party In Name Only

Republican Party? There is no Republican Party. Not one for the people, anyway. The New York Times tells us that what we once knew as the Grand Old Party is now actually a dozen or so very wealthy gentlemen, sitting around in a room and coordinating their vast wealth and strategy, getting ready for election 2012. Thanks to Citizens United, the undisclosed funding they bring to the table has the power to supersede any remaining institutional power or constituent input. They are calling the shots here. And from the sounds of it, they have already developed the framework for targeting key voting blocs, swing states, and vulnerable politicians, particularly in the Senate.

On some level, anyone who was even remotely following politics sensed this was happening already. This story puts it in black and white for all to see. Now we are about to find out whether or not they can buy an election - and in a sense, buy the power structure of the entire country.

But almost none of them hold office or a job with the Republican Party itself. Instead, they represent conservative groups that channeled tens of millions of dollars into last year’s Congressional campaign. And as 2012 approaches, the groups — among them the Karl Rove-founded American Crossroads, the Republican Governors Association, the American Action Network and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by the billionaire Koch brothers — have gathered into a loosely organized political machine poised to rival, and in many ways supplant, the official Republican Party apparatus.

At a time when the Republican National Committee remains weighed down by debt, outside conservative groups, freed from contribution limits by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision last year, are playing an ever larger role and operating in an increasingly coordinated fashion. In the coming months, the conservative groups will consult among themselves as they open pre-election advertising barrages against Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats.

How would that work? Here in Michigan, we have already seen one glaring example in action. Americans For Prosperity is working with Matty Moroun to stop the bridge in Detroit, even going over the head of a Republican governor and several powerful business interests to do so, at the behest of one billionaire with a monopoly. The multimillion dollar misleading advertising campaign, coupled with donations to politicians in key positions, has stopped the bridge from being built. So far so good. Child's play.

They are cannibalizing their own party to stop one bridge. Now, what do you think they are going to do to vulnerable Senate Democrats and President Obama? Consider the example in Michigan a warm-up, a test run, and get ready to throw out your television and recycle a bunch of mailers, because b-b-baby, you ain't seen nothing yet.

The Republican groups also had a head start. Most of them were formed in 2010, an election cycle that their leaders viewed as a test run after the Citizens United decision.

Now, they are poised to expand those efforts substantially. American Crossroads alone hopes to raise and spend $240 million during the 2012 elections; groups financed by the Kochs or conservative donors close to them, like Americans for Prosperity, will reportedly spend as much as $200 million.

Such figures rival what the formal Republican committees will spend. Much of the independent groups’ money will go to expensive television advertising, freeing the Republican National Committee and other party groups to focus their time and money on their traditional strength, voter turnout.

If they are saying $240 million, you can probably double that figure. Remember who we are dealing with here, and what their specialty is. Don't believe a word they say. And because they don't have to disclose, we will probably never know the exact dollar amount of their spending - but you can see it reaching upwards of a billion total, easily. Some of the remaining party regulars are speaking up about "outsourcing so much traditional party work", but like the moderates before them, they will quietly acquiesce, or they will be shown the door. Count on it.

And get ready for an election battle like you've never seen before. About the only thing working against them at this point is the fact that they don't have a viable candidate to center this effort on, but, even if they can't take the White House this time, they will probably be able to do significant damage elsewhere... and start the planning for 2016.

This doesn't stop until we get the money out of politics, and if anyone has a way that we can do that - please get those ideas out there. And do it quick.