The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age

    WHEN $5.00 IS WORTH MORE THAN $5000.00

    Much has been written about the Citizens United debacle, but it’s usually either based in the abstract or focused on the huge amounts of money being dumped into the dark abyss that is campaign financing.  As too often happens, the spotlight is on the big money shadow donors, seldom on how this travesty effects those of us who are middle income and below. 

    Today, this post is about only one of the ways it negatively impacts the largest segment of our citizenry.  Some up, close and personal examples of Citizen’s United elementary truth and consequences include:

    Edna is a retired cafeteria worker, who has to survive on an annual income of under $22,000.00.  For the past nine months, she has had oatmeal for dinner two nights a week so that she can contribute $25.00 a month to the re-election of President Obama.   It was either this or forgoing her weekly coffee klatch with her friends.

    Richard is a veteran of Iraq.  Both his body and psyche will forever endure the mental, emotional and physical scars of his service to our country.  He is no longer able to work construction due to his injuries, but feels lucky to find a job (thru his previous union) that provides him with a base income of $33,000.00 a year.  He strongly supports both Obama and his home state’s U.S. Senator who is also up for re-election.  The senatorial candidate cannot come close to matching his opponents funding from outside PAC’s (courtesy of CU).  Richard, wanting to level the field, at least in some small way, turns down overtime so he can work the phones and solicit more support for his choice who is also a veteran.  He figures so far this year he’s lost about $4000.00 in OT wages, but he has been able to raise over a hundred thousand for the campaign.  As a result of the loss of income, during the cold weather months, he keeps his home’s thermostat at 60 degrees and wears thermal underwear to reduce heating expenses.

     “It makes me so angry that while many serve in our country’s military to protect democracy, here at home the very core of it is being destroyed.  I’m pretty sure there weren’t any corporations, political pundits or rich, old white guys by my side over there getting maimed or killed; risking their own lives to protect the very foundation they are tearing apart.  It makes no sense to me.  How did this happen?”

    Mac and Dottie are in their fifties. He is on SS disability and she manages a dental office.  They live frugally; he’s a bargain shopper and she’s a champion coupon clipper.  They have little in savings and their house won’t be paid off for another ten years.  Their two grown kids are having a tough time too.  This couple has always believed they had a responsibility to be informed voters and tried to be wise about their voting choices.  Over their lifetimes they have voted for both Republican and Democrat candidates, but for the past decade have supported only Independents and/or Democrats.  They are spittin’ mad over Citizen’s United and are stalwart in their opinion that the rich are trying to pervert democracy.  Their challenge was to figure out how they could ‘put at least our two cents in, since the bottom line is while our donations are paltry compared to the Koch’s and the like, we’re hoping that it will show people like us matter and can contribute too’

    To achieve their goal, Dottie sews quilts to sell (she also makes them for fundraisers for Vets) and Mac makes quilt stands to sell too.  They donate every penny to Obama and other candidates who join them in their contempt for CU as well as supporting ObamaCare and other social programs.  To date, they are out of pocket almost $1000.00 for supplies.  Because of the monies raised from their wares, they have contributed $5k to Obama and over $5k to half a dozen other congressional contenders.  Dottie figures she can make do another year with her winter coat (she’s sown up the lining so at least it doesn’t hang below the coat) and hopefully their twelve year old car won’t need any more repairs.

    Now, I believe it’s accurate to declare that when those contributing their tens of thousands (even millions) of dollars to the PAC’s, whether anonymously or openly, they don’t need to do without food, new coats or to wear layers of clothing in their homes because they turned down their thermostat to reduce their heating costs.

    We can only hope the irony is not lost, at least by some, that Citizen’s United, while put in place in an attempt to deliver even more riches and power to the 1%, also initiated a multi-pronged assault against the majority of our society.  Those who have the least are now at risk to lose the most. 

    Of course, there are those of the middle and lower classes who will vote for candidates who endorse Citizen’s United and feel no compunction to donate much, if any, to their candidates as their campaign coffers are already overflowing compliments of CU.

    When we continue to only consider the ‘big picture’ without taking into consideration all the moving parts of an issue, we will remain unable to acknowledge all the elements that make the whole.  Thus, too often we miss what may well be, and often is, the most critical components of the equation. 

    If Obama and other candidates, who without the support of the shadow contributors, do prevail, none should consider that their efforts are the sole, or even the core, reason.  In reality, the people who have and continue to sacrifice and contribute much more than money will be the true heroes.

    Yes, their five dollars is truly worth more than the five thousand of any whose weapon of choice is their advocacy and participation in the travesty that is Citizen’s United.  


    Brilliant, Auntie.  What a travesty if, after all the Republicans have done to thwart progress, they get to claim the White House. (Bad enough they'll probably keep control of the house.)

    It's the people you've highlighted here who get how important this election is to them.  I doubt that they see the Dems as clones of the Republicans,, as so many others still seem to believe.  They wouldn't be so willing to make sacrifices if that were the case.

    Feeling good right now.  This just made my day.

    Thank Ramona,  It's too often and too easy to literally not really note the people amidst the chaos of the political landscape.  So little attention or factual accounts are reported about 'just us folks'.  Shame on us for not focusing more on them and less on all those pundits, media hounds and political whores that only provide clutter and confusion.

    (OMG, Obama has to win, then at least we may get a chance to overturn CU!)  blush


    There really isn't enough of this out there.  Instead we see the same pundits out there making the same arguments for or against without a single new thought.

    I love these stories.  Thanks again, Auntie.

     Meant to tell ya glad you're feeling better - take good care of yourself please.

    And please check this out:  (It's good news/bad news time)


    Thanks so much.  Still more breathless than I would like when I'm puttering too long, but, damn, if my hatred for being out of service is any kind of healer I should be good to go any day now.

    I sent your link to my FB page. Thanks.  I hope everybody in those long lines is angry enough at their AG to vote against whatever it is he stands for.  He could have allowed five weekends for early voting but it looks like he only allowed one, and that was because he was forced to.  They can't win legitimately so they try to win with dirty tricks.  And they feel no shame.  Ugh.

    As I noted in the other blog, there is Palin, who is irrelevant at this point (or for any point during the last four years) having her felonious PAC send in 5 grand.

    What is 5 grand going to do?

    Get her an ambassadorship to some country she never heard of?

    And I wonder; two billion bucks going to national stations and local stations across this nation? This huge amount of money certainly contributes to MSM.

    Oh, Mitt started yesterday? interrupting my MSNBC and CNN with lie after lie after lie in between Shamwow commercials!

    But there is an emotional factor here and Obama's campaign does receive significant monies from the 99%.

    Little contributions count for something I guess; there are good people who care and we know, absolutely know that these folks will vote and call upon their friends and relatives to vote.


    dd, I know many who have done without in order to send in their five, ten or twenty dollars.  It's heart wrenching that those who need it the most for necessities are aware it is truly up to just us regular folk to get those we need into public office.

    It shouldn't be this way, it's wrong, so very wrong.

    (But, it warms the cockles of my heart to know how many care enough about our nation's well-being to make the sacrifice as needed.)


    Means a lot Emma, it's time we focused more on the effects of the political corruption on the masses.  It's more than apparent that the media, pundits nor the vast majority of the politicos 'get it'. 

    Brilliant work, Aunt Sam.  $5 sacrificed definitely means a lot more than $5 million written off as "the cost of doing business" from a person who will never miss it.  Though, in a way, these guys always miss it, even when they don't need it.  I once witnessed a ludicrously wealthy man stoop to pick up a dime off of the sidewalk.

    Excellent writing, thanks for this.

    You misconstrued the rich man's motive. He didn't feel a need for the dime himself; he was afraid that some person who really did need it would pick it up if he left it. Love the post, BTW, Aunt Sam.

    Guy was a believer in efficient markets.  Guess he was compelled by economics.

    Thanks Jolly, appreciate.  And I'm sure you're right about the motive for picking up that dime.  sigh.

    While I'm very much on board with the general thrust of this piece, I don't think it has anything to do with Citizens United.  You could already donate close to $5k last cycle, pre-CU.  The lion's share of money raised in a post-CU world is still from bundling of maxed out individual donors, not from Super PACs.  Per Open Secrets, Super PACs have spent about $250M this cycle - most of it on Romney.

    One of the overlooked stories of this cycle is how CU didn't change the game.

    DF, well, guess we'll have to agree to disagree. 

    After speaking with many and doing massive reading relating to the impact and perception's of CU, the huge amounts of 'shadow funding' being dumped by these sources into congressional and the Presidential campaigns does make it necessary, for those without this shadow funding, to obtain more donations from their constituents in attempt to 'level the playing field'.  (There is so much money left over in these PACs they are now running massive ads in some outlier areas because there is no 'room left' in their base target groupings. Ironically, here in Alaska, and all know this state doesn't really matter, we are suddenly getting massive television ads being funded by Crossroads and other like entities.)

    I, and am sure millions of others, get emails from congressional campaigns, as well as from Obama's campaign, advising how many millions in ads, etc. is now being spent by these PAC's to defeat them.  They are requesting donations to be able to compete.

    As of this a.m., many of these shadow fund participants are being disclosed (I think depending on state) and the contributors are not happy - even admitting if they knew they would be 'outed', would not have contributed.

    I used the $5000 mark only as a base amount. 

    You could have picked $5M.  My point is that even though CU has had some impact on the funding picture, it does not appear to be having a big impact on actual races.  Again, SuperPACs are spending a ton of money against Obama, but he's still winning.  An explanation of this might be something like the marginal benefit of dollars spent per votes acquired was already near zero prior to CU.  The disparities you're otherwise speaking of existed before CU - $50k/plate dinners, etc.

    Josh has a theory on the late-game peripheral money dump:

    Remember, Sheldon Adelson has already given you the money. It’s sitting in the bank account. And not even sure legally these SuperPACs would be able to give it back. The logistics of needing to do something with the money are real — especially if you’re going to need to explain to your billionaire how Romney lost and you still had money left over that you didn’t spend. But that brings us to the other key point … The Money, the big big money.
    The folks who run these PACs and Committees have consultants who place the ads, they have houses who make the ads. It’s all a pretty open secret that these things work very incestuously and by hook or by crook the folks running running these organizations get a big big taste of the action themselves. So you may be wondering if that Romney SuperPAC ad running non-stop in Chicago and Dallas isn’t money going to waste. But I guarantee you that the commissions being made off that spending amount to blindingly large bonanzas for the people actually running these outfits.
    So that’s my read. We got the money. We ain’t giving back. So let’s just put it everywhere we can. The third beach front home is just as sweet whether the ads mattered or not.

    I agree with what you're saying in principle, it just doesn't seem to have much of anything to do with CU.  The only linkage you've explained is using SuperPACs as boogeymen in the fundraising game, but that's not very convincing by itself.  Politicians are always asking for money and always telling you about how their opponent is outstripping them in the race for a fatter war chest.

    But what was supposed to happen, that this election was supposed to be awash in untold sums of money that would forever change the game, has simply not manifested.  You can even subtract all SuperPAC spending from this election, but you still end up with exponential growth in spending strictly based on traditional, pre-CU fundraising.  This would still be the most expensive election in history by a long-shot without one CU dollar.

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