In today’s Chronicle, Bradley Olson reports on what he calls “a new national trend in politics in which corporations and the wealthy can spend big in election season under the cloak of anonymity.”
The story cites two local nonprofit organizations, King Street Patriots/True the Vote and Renew Houston, as manifestations of this “new” trend that various campaign-finance-reform advocates and others who decry the influence of money in politics find scary. The story goes on to insinuate (via these same advocates) that the problem was made worse by the Roberts Court’s Citizens United decision on campaign finance.
Now, we certainly wouldn’t want to dissuade any Chron journalists from digging into campaign finance records and looking for conflicts of interest. Goodness knows, that would be a welcome change from the sorts of rah-rah stories that too frequently show up in the newspaper.
But “new national trend?”
Since the McCain-Feingold “reforms” that were going to check the influence of big money in politics (right), we instead have seen the rise of 527s (remember the Bush-Kerry race?) not to mention the sorts of independent organizations cited by Olson in today’s piece. There’s nothing that “new” about it, unless you’ve haven’t been following politics for the last six years.
Indeed, in recent blog posts, we’ve referred to the Colorado Model, in which a handful of committed millionaire progressives managed to flip formerly reliably Republican Colorado to the Dems over a few election cycles, through strategic funding of down-ballot political races, creation of a loose network of “independent” news organizations and “ethics” groups to pound targeted opponents, and liberal use (no pun intended) of the legal system to tie up ostensibly conservative organizations. Here’s a deep excerpt from the definitive account of the successful effort:
The group immediately recognized that campaign finance reform had completely changed the rules of the game. By limiting the amount of money candidates and political parties could raise and spend, the new law had seriously weakened candidates–and all but killed political parties.
“In the past, the party ran this whole apparatus, they called it the