money in politics Rule: Cover The Topic solutions

Campaign $pending: Mayday! Democracy Is Flatlined!

An all time high of $4B in political spending was reached this past election, with another $200M in dark money, even though less people donated than in previous elections.  And money got results. Of the biggest spenders for House elections, 94% won; in the Senate it was 82%.  All this, according to a Nov. 10 News Hour report.

At the risk of stating the obvious, here are 2 things you probably know:
   There is too much money in politics.
   The news media reaps huge financial rewards from campaign ads.

And 1 you may not know:
   There was virtually no TV news coverage of Senate debate on an
   amendment that would curtail political spending and reverse rulings
   like Citizens United.

Anyone see a conflict of interest here?

The amendment, known as Senate Joint Resolution 19 (SJR 19), or the “Democracy For All” Amendment, was overwhelmingly approved to proceed in the Senate (71-18) in September, but then failed cloture to end debate and go to vote (54-42).  On the major news outlets, other than CSPAN, only a single mention was made- 1 highly politicized ‘discussion’ on FOX News.

To research coverage, I, again, used TVNews Archive*, as I did for my carbon tax blog. The results showed a similar pattern.  For the 3 broadcast networks, ABC, CBS & NBC, there were search hits for “money in politics” and “Citizens United”, but none for “Democracy For All Amendment”, “Joint Resolution 19”, or other variations of those terms.  In other words, again, they reported on the problem, but not on a solution.  

Cable didn’t fare much better.

Nor was there any reporting on either activist & Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig’s “Mayday PAC”, or this summers “California March for Democracy” by the group 99Rise, both of which target money in politics.

In this fascinationg interview with Bill Moyers, Lessig and Zephyr Teachout, who ran for NY governor this November and managed to get a third of the vote despite spending only $1.57/vote vs. Andrew Cuomo’s $60.62/vote, make powerful arguments for campaign finance reform. Lessig, whose Mayday PAC funds candidates commited to eliminating big money, cites a Princeton study that shows a high correlation between political policy that gets made and what economic elites and interest groups want, and no correlation- ie. ‘flatline’- between policy and what average American citizens want.


A San Jose Mercury News editorial by Common Cause cites similar data. For the last 16 years, “the finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sector has dumped more money into federal elections than any other”, hitting $400M this year.  The result was weaker banking rules and the sub-prime mortgage meltdown.

The California March for Democracy last May involved a 480 mile march from LA to Sacramento that culminated in the occupation of the CA state capitol, calling for an amendment to outlaw big money in politics.

But you didn’t see that in the news, they were too busy selling our democracy, right out from under us. The PEW’s latest State of the News Media report that covers political spending for 2012 says: “Political advertising alone hit a record $2.9 billion, up 38% from 2010 and almost double the $1.5 billion spent on local TV in 2008.”

Polls and support for the amendment are unequivocal.  The SJR 19 proposal itself cites a Washington Post-ABC News Poll taken after Citizens United which found “80% of Americans opposed the Court’s ruling, with 65% `strongly opposed to unfettered corporate spending in elections.’”

PRWatch offers more data: 16 states and 500 cities, including NYC, LA & Chicago, passed resolutions supporting the amendment; the Republican base favors it 2-to-1; and 3M have signed petitions. It further cites a Democracy Corps survey showing 73% in favor of overturning Citizens United.  In reaction to 2012 spending data (32 Super PAC donors outspent 3.7M who gave less than $200 each), it quotes Elizabeth Warren:  “When 32 people can outspend 3.7 million citizens, our democracy is in real danger”.

The Senate bill, Mayday PAC and March for Democracy are but a few examples of individual and group efforts striving to wrest control back from monied interests. There is a whole parallel universe of such activities in this country, all trying to make change- Move to Amend, Wolf PAC, Government By the People & many others mentioned in the SJ Merc article above. But you’d never know it from the media.  Broadcast and cable news are not only NOT fullfilling their mandate as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy, they are also ensuring their own continued increasing profits in the bargain!  And we are being total pawns.

Demand otherwise! Support ATDs mission and fight for facts. A robust press which serves the people will not only level the playing field of Democracy, it will raise it as well.

ABC, CBS, NBC, and all the others:

Cover the Topic of solutions to getting money out of politics. It’s. Your. Job.

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*Note: The TVNews Archive database may have data gaps, though none were uncovered in the use of it for this blog. [intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_CCGaps”](more info)[/intlink]

Additional Links:
[intlink id=”1347″ type=”page” anchor=”TVNewsArch_NW2014″]TVNews Archive Network List[/intlink]