Saturday, September 03, 2016

Name Me The Money

As we've been told repeatedly, this electoral cycle is unlike any other in history. The pros say that in style, tone and substance, we've never witnessed a contest that goes as far as this one does on both sides. That's debatable: there have been nasty fights before, beginning way back in 1800. In that contest, high-minded Founding Father Thomas Jefferson lost to rock-solid Founding Father John Adams. Yet it was hardly a campaign of just lofty ideals. Jefferson supporters claimed Adams was a "hideous hermaphrodital character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman." Adams' campaign spit back, calling Jefferson a "mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw, sired by a Virginia mulatto father." Makes "Crooked Hillary" and "Crazy Donald" seem mild by comparison.

Still, one thing that seems safe to put in the "never seen it quite like this" category is the way money is used, how it is obtained and the amounts involved. At both the top and bottom, the flow (there seems to be no ebb) is indeed unprecedented in scope and scale. At the high end you have the effect of the Citizens United ruling, wherein organizational money is gushing like a river. At the same time, at the low end, the ability to reach out over social media has meant a million small trickles of cash from individuals. The net result is that a torrent of dollars is deluging the system, soaking everything in its path. (I think I've just about exhausted the water analogy, don't you?)  

Some of that money is in direct contributions to either Clinton or Trump. It comes from individuals, companies or even the candidates themselves. Some is from organizations such as their respective national party organizations. And some comes from Political Action Committees or PACS, which are not supposed to have any direct coordination with the candidate themselves (wink, wink, nod, nod). There are also a whole host of independent organizations who spend for or against a candidate, based on their alignment with that organization's goals, be it abortion rights or for gun rights. Sorry, one more drop in the analogy bucket: all those streams for and against the candidates combine to more than half a billion dollars of attempted influence pedaling as of the latest listing.

A scan through the Federal Election Commission reports shows who gave what to whom. As you would expect, the respective campaigns are the largest contributors to their namesakes. Then there are a gaggle of PACS promoting each candidate. For Clinton you have Priorities USA Action, Correct the Record and Ready PAC, while Trump has Great America PAC, Rebuilding America Now and Make America Great Again PAC. While funds seem to be unlimited, key words for names seem to be in very short supply.

As noted there are independent organizations with other agendas who see kindred spirits on one side or the other, and so put their monetary thumbs on the scale. For Trump you have the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party Majority Fund, while Clinton has the backing of Planned Parenthood and the League of Conservation Voters. Then there are independent groups that really have no other agenda than promoting their fav. Some carry names that are deliberately ambiguous, such as For Our Future for Clinton. Other wear their hearts firmly on their sleeves, like Patriots for Trump.

There are also those for and against that haven't given a cent (and probably have no intention of doing so), but have registered if no other reason than to make sure their names show up on the official list. There's the anti-Clinton PACS Hillary Schmillary and It's About Killary, as well as Dick Morris' Just Say No To Her! My personal favorites are two PACS targeting Donald, Dump Terrifying Rhetoric Undermine Mainstream Politics (DumpTRUMP) and TuckFrump.

As of this writing, the polls and pundits give Clinton an edge, but a lot can still happen. And all of this money means that from now through election day there is cash aplenty for ads, direct mail, pop-up banners and robocalls. And so while they say nothing is a sure bet, there is one predication I think I can safely make with 100% assurance: you will be very happy when it's all over.


Marc Wollin of Bedford thinks November can't come fast enough. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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