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Who's buying America's democracy?
"Understand what we do to you," Kimball said to viewers. "We spend all of our time raising money, often from strangers we do not even know. Then we spend it in three specific ways: First we measure you, what it is you want to purchase in the political marketplace--just like Campbell's soup or Kellogg's cereal. Next, we hire some consultants who know how to tailor our image to fit what we sell. Lastly, we bombard you with the meaningless, issueless, emotional nonsense that is always the result. And whichever one of us does that best will win."
Unfortunately for Kimball he was not the best bamboozler on the ballot--he lost big to John McCain, who's presently in his 25th year as an Arizona senator. Ironically, McCain himself became a champion of campaign finance reform for a while. But he totally abandoned that pose about three years ago and has now wedged himself tightly into his senate seat with the very same kind of special interest campaign cash and vacuous politicking that Kimball had so rightly condemned.
The corporate money of 1986 was like a light drizzle compared to the torrential downpour in last year's congressional elections. And, sure enough, the 2010 campaigns (including McCain's ugly re-election bid) bombarded voters with a level of "meaningless, issueless, emotional nonsense" that even Kimball could not have imagined. Nor has this ridiculous, inherently corrupting campaign money system come anywhere near its full power--a tsunami of corporate cash is already rising for 2012.
Politicians are the sellers, but who--specifically--is buying America's democracy? We will devote this and one other issue of the Lowdown to answering this crucial question.
This month, drawing on donor reports that individuals and corporations must file with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), we're identifying many of the largest givers to last year's Republican victors in the House and Senate. With officials in Washington now pushing hard to strengthen the grip that big bankers and corporations have over consumers, workers, the environment, and others, the public has a right to follow the money, including--where possible--tracing the funds to recognizable brand names and logos.
In our second issue, we'll do the best we can to lift the veil on the massive amounts of secret cash that was funneled into the 2010 elections through corporate front groups. This "mystery money" is the diabolical product of the Supreme Court's edict last year that corporations are "persons" with a First Amendment right to spend unlimited and unreported sums of their shareholders' funds to pervert America's elections.
Both issues of the Logo Lowdown are largely based on the exhaustive, nationally recognized research of two excellent public interest groups: OpenSecrets and SunlightFoundation. In this month's report, we break the donors into industry groups, listing corporate interests that gave $100,000 or more, with at least 60 percent of their money going to support Republican candidates. We also list the top Democratic donors.
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