Shortly after filing my blog yesterday, the New York Times’ David Firestone added another wrinkle. It seems liberal billionaires also contribute millions of dollars to voice their strongly held beliefs regarding climate change:
Those who are worried about man-made climate change might be tempted to welcome the news that Tom Steyer, a Democratic billionaire, will spend $100 million this year to fight it. Mr. Steyer plans to put up half the money himself for attack ads against governors and lawmakers who ignore climate change, and will raise the rest from like-minded rich people.
Yet, the religious shareholders filing proxy resolutions from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and Tri-State Coalition on Responsible Investment persist in their handwringing over campaign and lobbying monies contributed by libertarian and business-friendly individuals and institutions. Since the U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, however, money from the left is just as – if not more – pervasive, according to Alan Suderberg and Ben Weider of the Center for Public Integrity.
Since the Supreme Court loosened rules on political spending in 2010, the Republican Party, boosted by corporate and billionaire backers, has been painted as the biggest beneficiary. But in New Hampshire and a handful of other states in 2012, Democrats flipped the script.
In New Hampshire, groups backing Democrats reported spending nearly $1 million more than their Republican counterparts.
Nonprofits, super PACs, and other non-candidate groups reported spending at least $209 million to influence elections in 38 states, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics (NIMSP) and state elections offices.
Pro-Democratic groups, many associated with unions, outspent their Republican counterparts by more than $8 million, according to the Center’s analysis.
Unlike 2010, when the RGA [Republican Governors Association] helped Republicans make net gains of five governorships and win control of 22 more state legislative chambers — the GOP had a rougher go of it in 2012.
National unions, seemingly shattered following Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s easy victory in a recall election the previous June, roared back with massive spending that helped state-level Democratic candidates around the country.
In total, pro-labor groups reported spending nearly $44 million in 2012, according to the Center analysis.
Outside groups funded by national unions spent heavily to help [2011 Wisconsin Democrat gubernatorial challenger Tom] Barrett stay competitive. In total, outside groups reported spending at least $30 million in Wisconsin state elections last year, though millions more were likely spent on “issue ads” that went unreported.
Funds from the D.C.-based headquarters of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Service Employees International Union and the National Education Association teachers’ union moved between several nonprofits and state-level committees before being spent.
Those groups include Planned Parenthood, the League of Conservation Voters and the immigrant-rights organization Voces De La Frontera, according to state and Department of Labor records.
However, Firestone’s anti-Citizens United stance is consistent when he writes “This arms race escalates every campaign cycle, producing a torrent of attack ads that make all candidates look like liars, cowards and thieves, increasing cynicism that keeps people away from the polls” and this:
The pro-spending argument is a familiar one — as long as it’s legal, why should the Kochs and others on the right be allowed to dominate these races with their anti-regulation argument? But Mr. Steyer’s money can’t begin to compete with the forces on the right. The Koch network alone raised $407 million in 2012, and pro-environment spending from the left will only prompt more from the vastly richer conservative forces.
The cacophony of attack ads, with their dire warnings and scary music, prompt many people to just hit the mute button or tune out entirely. Mr. Steyer may think he’s getting through to the masses with his criticism of the Keystone oil pipeline, but soon his ads, and his millions, will blend into the rest of the toxic sludge on television. You can’t fight pollution with more pollution.
Although this writer applauds Firestone for his ideological consistency while disagreeing with him regarding Citizens United, I also wonder why he frets to such an extent when he admits television viewers increasingly reach for the mute button or simply ignore political advertising whenever they’re aired. If eventually proven ineffective, the answer isn’t to ban contributions to political action committees that produce such advertising but to allow them to arrive at the same realization.
In any event, it’s doubtful ICCR and TSCRI have an issue against Steyer, George Soros and the scores of Hollywood moguls and film stars who open their wallets for liberal causes and candidates. As noted previously, the religious members of shareholder activist groups are interested only in shutting down monies from those whose positions they oppose.
And Why Not? convincingly argues for the valuation of a profound theological dimension of business life and advocates for a greater appreciation of men and women in business, on whose efforts the health of a nation depends.