Newt Gingrich has an opinion on everything, but his opinion on campaign finance laws goes way above and beyond ridiculous. He wants to ban campaign finance laws so that people like the Koch brothers can offset the influence of people in the media like Barbara Walters. Right, because media coverage and campaign finance are totally the same thing.
We all know that money talks. We all know that politicians on both sides of the aisle pander far more to their biggest donors than they do to the people that vote for them. We all know what it’s like to go to the polls and feel like we’re choosing the between the lesser of two evils, because the candidates left on the ballot are the ones who had the most money to spend on campaigning, not the ones with the best ideas. Our campaign finance laws have been gutted, and weren’t especially adequate to start.
The Koch brothers have a very heavy influence on our political process, however much they and their sycophants in politics claim they’re just victims. They currently exert their influence through their non-profit network and through dark money donors like Donors Trust. Remove campaign finance laws, and they would not only be allowed to use their non-profits to exert even more influence over elections, but they would be allowed to personally donate whatever portion of their billions they deem appropriate to whatever extreme, right-wing candidates they want.
According to People for the American Way (PFAW), our current system makes it so that candidates have to have the approval of the “donor class,” so they have the backing to run solid campaigns. Part of that makes it so they can counter whatever’s said about them in the media, including by people like Barbara Walters. PFAW says that many candidates get most of their money from their constituents, but their influence comes from the moneyed “donor class.”
In 2012, the Koch’s donor network raised $400 million for elections. An article in the Washington Post from earlier this year says that expenditures from various Koch-backed groups for Republicans matched expenditures by labor groups for Democrats. They also outpaced independent groups on the right. Furthermore, this network of non-profits (listed here) already operates outside of existing campaign finance system. So it’s not like they don’t already have plenty of influence that the law can’t touch.
The left, too, has a network of groups and non-profits funneling money towards candidates of its choosing. The Washington Post says that unions and a network of wealthy liberal donors managed to get several hundred million dollars into the 2012 elections as well. So liberal Democrats aren’t totally innocent in trying to skirt campaign finance laws either.
The number of groups out there, and the number of donors they shield, already get around campaign finance laws. Citizens United allowed the formation of super PACs, which spend a lot of money launching attack ads on the opposition. Our campaign finance laws might as well not even exist, and Gingrich wants to get rid of them so the money can flow even more freely.
As far as media influence goes, people listen, but it doesn’t have nearly the influence on elections that money does. If Barbara Walters wants to influence the outcome of an election, she’ll donate more money to whatever candidates, PACs and super PACs she can. Or she’ll start her own PAC. She isn’t going to convert ABC News into a 24-7 Republican hate-fest; she can’t. Even if she did, people could (and would) tune out, and her coverage wouldn’t necessarily determine who made it onto our ballots the way the donor class does.
You remove campaign finance laws altogether, and you remove what’s left of the sieve of a barrier we have protecting us against oligarchy and plutocracy (which might seem pointless, since we’re much more of an oligarchy now anyway). The Supreme Court already gutted our democracy with the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions. The “cromnibus” spending bill raised individual donations to political parties by a factor of 10. And Gingrich thinks that campaign finance laws are a problem? Gingrich, and attitudes like his, are the real problem in this area.