Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Real 2014 Election Winners

Let's not forget that the real winners in last week's elections were the billionaire Republican donors who bought eight new Senators for their oligarchy.

To get from the 2012 doldrums to the 2014 victory, GOP groups went through significant transformations. The network of groups backed by David and Charles Koch started buying attack ads with a new super-PAC instead of the nonprofit it used two years ago. The upside for them is the operation is more efficient (tax rules require nonprofits to spend at least 50 percent of their budget on nonpolitical activity, so every dollar on TV political ads must be matched with nonpolitical work). The downside is donor names are disclosed.

Perhaps the greatest example of a turnaround is Rove's American Crossroads. The group was the biggest loser two years ago, dumping more than $120 million into campaigns and watching 10 of the 12 Senate candidates it backed go down in defeat. This time Rove's group won 8 of the 11 Senate races where it made investments.

Crossroads went on a well-publicized soul searching mission last fall, including a donor meeting that kicked off the week of the government shutdown in 2013--an event that infuriated the business community. Despite the group's efforts to improve it's image, big checks were slow to come in. Over the summer Republicans were outspent in key races, Crossroads President Steven Law said in an interview. "Many of our candidates hit Labor Day and were underwater with their image," Law said. 

Unlimited money made all the difference this year.

The donor freeze started thawing in September when polling began to tighten in a number of races and big-names such as Sheldon Adelson started opening their wallets. He wrote a $10 million check to Crossroads GPS in September, a nonprofit arm of the Rove organization. GPS, as a nonprofit, is not required to disclose its donors. Adelson's windfall was leaked to the news media. "Typically donors who support Crossroads are pretty sophisticated consumers of political information," Law said. "My guess is donors paid attention to what they saw on sites like Real Clear Politics."

The group scraped together $36 million to put into television for senate races in the last 90 days of the campaign, according to figures provided by Crossroads. It was the lead spender in Colorado, Arkansas and Alaska, where GOP Dan Sullivan is about 8,000 votes ahead of Democrat Mark Begich.

And money buys cooperation.

However, resources weren't arriving evenly or predictably. That forced Crossroads and some of the other GOP groups to cooperate this year in ways they've never done before. One example came in October when Crossroads realized there was a "hole in our budget" for Colorado, Law said. 
Law emailed Brain Baker at Ending Spending Action Fund, the super-PAC backed by TD Ameritrade founder Joe Ricketts and the two worked out a deal—the Ricketts group would go up on the air and continue pounding incumbent Democrat Mark Udall while Crossroads took a week off. "Ending Spending filled a gap," Law said. "The take away for all of us was sharing information and strategy was smart for all of us." Udall lost to Republican Cory Gardner. 
Ending Spending took the lead in other places, including Georgia where Republican David Perdue beat back Democratic challenger Michelle Nunn, in a race that was widely thought would go to a runoff.

So these GOP billionaires joined forced and coordinated their attacks worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  As a result, Democrats were utterly crushed across the country.

There's a lesson here if Democrats wish to choose to learn it.  You'd better believe the 2016 ads designed to depress voter turnout are already starting too.

Billionaire Republican donors bought Congress outright with this election.  If they get the White House as well, this country is done.

And it doesn't look like anyone can stop them unless we vote.  While you still can, that is.

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