Fight Club Politics

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Besides the super-covered Florida primary, yesterday also marked a smaller media darling: the reporting deadline for 2011 campaign contributions at the Federal Elections Commission. Today’s New York Times includes a helpful “Who’s Financing the Super PACs?” table that lists the names of those individuals who contributed over $25,000 to each of the candidates’ super PACs.

Unlike candidates, who can accept only $2,500 per donor, there is no limit on super PAC donations from individuals and corporations — they can spend unlimited amounts of cash on the candidate of their choice. And have they ever: Talking Points Memo’s Evan McMorris-Santoro wrote over the weekend that Romney and his “Restore Our Future” super PAC outspent Newt 5 to 1 in Florida:

“According to my Democratic source, the total ad spending through Tuesday in Florida by the Romney campaign and its allied super PAC, Restore Our Future, is $15,340,000. The total spending for Gingrich’s campaign and his super PAC, Winning Our Future, is $3,390,000.”

And make no mistake, these ads are more Fight Club than debate club.

According to The New York Times Caucus blog, 92 percent of the ads in the Florida primary were negative. Increasingly, the presidential campaign is shaping up to be a Tyler Durden-like match-up in which the candidates slug it out in ads while denying they have anything to do with them.

(The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about fight club.)

Despite rules that candidates and super PACs cannot communicate or coordinate with each other, most super PACs are run by former campaign staffers. And as Elizabeth Drew wrote recently in an excellent piece in The New York Review of Books:

“The connections between the candidates and the Super PACs supporting them aren’t very well hidden. Romney’s former national political director, Carl Forti, famous for his years of efforts to get around limits on outside spending, set up the pro-Romney Super PAC Restore Our Future. Romney appeared at a fund-raising event for the Super PAC and attended a private dinner with a small group of its top donors. Restore Our Future paid an estimated $4 million for ads run in Iowa attacking Newt Gingrich just when he appeared to be a threat to Romney there.

In debates in New Hampshire, both Gingrich and Romney disavowed any connection with ads by Super PACs set up on their behalf; and then they went on to recite just what was in those ads.”

Unless the negative onslaught proves ineffective with voters, we may indeed be in for the “bloodiest campaign ever,” as predicted by Joe Hagan in last week’s New York magazine cover article that featured a beaten-up and bandaged Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

I sure hope he’s wrong, because as those of you who remember Fight Club know, the ending’s not pretty.

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  • Anonymous

    All Newt’s Florida money came from one family. Isn’t that weird.
    We are not allowed to know where Mitt’s money comes from.
    But now Florida is over and no one cares anymore.
    Ron Paul got the solidest 7% ever garnered in a primary, but his guys are gun dealers, gold buyers, pawn shop owners, pay day lenders, used car dealers, day care operators, rest home kings, financial advisers and Peter Gunn barbers, in short; those who claim the sacred liberty of bone idleness and parasitism on the poor, and would not lift a finger to curb corporate hegemony. And I really wonder what Santorum’s 14% would do about abortion after they outlaw birth control. Maybe we could deport the pregnant.

  • leftofcenter

    It’s now roughly seven months till the election. You could say if everyone who hates these ads complains, where will they go to?

    The FCC- it’s “free speech”. If you don’t like it, turn it off.
    The NAB- They’ll scream censorship, unfair restriction of commerce and more.
    Currently there is no law that states everything you say in an ad must be 100% true. In Canada,
    if you lie in your on-air content you can be fined. Here though people think not hearing the Seven Dirty Words is way more important.

    They will get worse and more racist at Obama. Somewhere, some neocon “campaign strategist” is trying to figure this out. How do we incorporate racist content in an ad in such a  way that our candidate (probably Romney) won’t be accused of blatant racism? That way the “biased” MSM won’t instantly pull out the same old boring Willie Horton soundbites that nobody cares about.

    This will happen.

  • leftofcenter

    Here’s an idea. The latest polls say that over 50% of the public hate the politicians. What would happen if every disgusted person stayed home on election day? That’s roughly over 150 million.

    You’re right. Even with that smaller number, the percentage of those who would vote would be mainly neocon. Which means that it wouldn’t work as an Occupy the Election event. Oh well.

  • Piksnilderf

    Without an informed public, there is no democracy.

    And that’s why with America’s awe -inspiring main stream media outlets,  which remain courageous sources of integrity, honesty, and unbiased reporting following the facts wherever they lead- that our democracy functions so well these days to the benefit of all-  AND NOT mostly just for a few well-entrenched interests.

    Then again, maybe not.

  • David Eddy

    Elections are a waste of everyone’s money that could help solve our messed up government problem.
    All we need is a list of application resumes, a psychological evaluation of the applicant and a statement of  intent.
    The way it is now, people just vote for whom ever has an Irish sounding name like McObama.

  • Anonymous

    Today (02/03/12) on DRShow, some wrongwinger using a Jewish congresswoman’s name compared Barack Obama to a lampshade. Some lesbian debutante from Belmont, NC decided all those using racist talking points in this election should be termed “lampshade manufacturers.” I liked that, but I’m kinda immature. Anyway, there is little danger of insulting actual made in America makers of lampshades because there are very few remaining. Classism and it’s tendency to coddle the Oligarchy is a more pressing problem.

  • opt out

    Seems to me if someone insists on trying to fight dirty and bloody your face, it’s time to drop the detached composed professor schtick and knock the mf out. There’s no shortage of material to use against the Republicanistanians. We just need someone willing to put his dukes up and take a swing

  • David Eddy

    We are so well informed we are totally confused.
    What is apparent is that the system no longer works.
    The press is distorting the language.
    The politicians are clueless.
    The solutions are counterproductive.
    We have capitalism with insufficient capital.
    The Nation is sliding backward into chaos.
    We need bold leadership.
    We get incompetence.
    We need answers.
    We get zilch.
    We need action.
    We get conflict.
    We need change.
    We get stalemate.

  • patrick

    There is an easy solution to the circus that politics has become .If we could only make the nation understand that we have the power to make money irrelevant in a campaign, the contributions would cease from special interest groups. When we get out in mass and vote for the person with the least amount of monetary backing,we will create a system where politicians would actually try and effect changes that they truly believe in. It’s easy, their names will be there in front of all of us on the ballots but we won’t even recognize them because they will have gotten no publicity. Once we do that a couple of elections in a row, the money coming into these campaigns would dry up, as it would be evident to the contributors that the elections are no longer for sale. We’ll then find out who the persons we are voting for, actually are and what they believe, instead of being force fed lies becase some poll says it’s what most of us want to hear. Bottom line is, what they are doing now works and we have the ability to change it, if we so choose.

  • Helen Reed

    I appreciated hearing the list of demonizing words.I sure would like to share them.Havent had any luck in my search.
    The show on  2/3  was most enlightening

  • Phx Titan

    These Super PACs might turn out to be just what the doctor Rx ordered and the ticket to potentially reverse Reaganomics and what the Conservative Revolution wrought upon America with a “hollowed-out” American economy via $30 Trillion red ink TRIPLE DEFICITS in 1.) trade’s accumulated Current Account net trade balance, 2.) budget’s P&I debt tab, and 3.) regulation deficits ALL since 1981… after a total baseline benchmark of just $1.0 Trillion, total, for the entire 205 years prior to 1981, from 1776 on.  $30 Trillion, 30x, 30 yrs and counting, not to mentioned Reagan’s own OMB man himself, Stockman, saying “HOW my Republican Party destroyed the American economy” over a 30-40 year period.  “Nixon Shock” in Aug 1971, another feel-good set of initiatives, also played a key role in what the republican legacy wrought upon the American economy, again, according to OMB Director Stockman. Powerful indictment, but wasted to date. In fact, Repubs won a historic 2010 election 3 months later.  Dems are hapless to seize the narrative! 

    My personal hero, Bill Moyers, while predominately focusing on the present and the present Obama Admin during his 40 min talk with Stockman, and what the Admin “wasn’t getting”, (I agree) Moyers took a rain check on the 30-40 year economic history narrative of “HOW My Republican Pary destroyed the American economy”… with OMB Director Stockman, that Stockman himself wrote about in a 7/31/2010 NYT piece with the same op-ed subtitle. A Moyers & Company Lost Opportunity… of which Moyers usually loses few opportunities to make critical points.  Please bring Stockman back!!!

    Super PACs are the golden (9 month) vehicle OPPORTUNITY till November for laying out constructive educational insightful NARRATIVE via charts & graphs and educating America how they have been voting against their own economic interest, for wedge politics issues of conservative creation, and selling themselves down the river for counter-productive conservative rhetoric & policies.  30x tell-tale visual of Reagan’s feel-good but SUICIDAL TURN for the American empire in PowerPoint TV visuals and narratives.  The numbers all went off the cliff AFTER 1981. Also the opp to give hyper credit to Carter’s legacy of killing off Nixon’s created inflation, via his appointment and sea change of the Federal Reserve with his Paul Volcker pick, as painful AND RESPONSIBLE as it was for Carter. Ended his presidency, his sacrificial responsiblity, unlike Nixon’s & Reagan’s.  HUGE DIFF.  Yet current narrative is is that Carter is the dog, Reagan the hero, Nixon the dark figure. Super PAC opp to clue in American voters.

    Let’s look at the Super PAC’s as a glass half full as opposed to half empty. It’s an OPPORTUNITY to EDUCATE American voters on the destructive path they themselves voted in and bought… and a constructive path out of this economic hell hole conservatives have created for our country. Voters are at the top of the political food chain. Results are our collective creation. Super PACs can educate American voters to basically… pull their heads out of their *** … so to speak. 😉

    Not to mention the billion? Obama is on course to raise for his own campaign? This is the OPPORUNTIY of our lifetime to chart voters on a more pragmatic path of voting responibly.

  • Jacqueline Pace

    I wish yesterday’s guest (on February 5)  would have  enunciated as well as you. He spoke too fast.

  • Emford2002

    And now, President Obama is urging his supporters to donate to a SuperPac for him.
    There’s no hope for this country until we get the money out of politics.  Both parties seem to sell themselves to the highest bidder.