BILL MOYERS: Welcome. If you’re visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful house gift, might we suggest a nice super PAC? Thanks to the Supreme Court and Citizens United, they’re all the rage among the mega-wealthy. All it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as "The Washington Post" describes it, a “highly customized, highly personalized” political action committee.

It’s easy –super PACs come in all amounts and affiliations. You don’t have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won’t be turned aside. Cable TV tycoon Marc Nathanson got a super PAC for his friend, longtime Democratic Congressman Howard Berman from California, and all it cost was $100,000. Down in North Carolina, Republican congressional candidate George Holding received a handsome super PAC that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. Yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions.

GEORGE HOLDING: 2012 is the most important election we’re ever going to have.

BILL MOYERS: You can start a super PAC on your own or contribute to one that already exists. Super PACs are available for every kind of race – presidential, congressional or statewide. But there are other ways you can help buy an election. Look at the Wisconsin recall campaign of Republican Governor Scott Walker. At least fourteen billionaires rushed to Walker’s side. He outraised his Democratic opponent by nearly eight to one. Most of his money came from out of state. More than sixty million dollars were spent, and $45 million of it for Walker alone. Here are just a few of the satisfied buyers:

Wisconsin billionaire Diane Hendricks contributed more than half a million dollars on Scott Walker’s behalf. Fearful the United States might become “a socialistic ideological nation,” she’s an ardent foe of unions – and against, in her words, “taxing job creators.” True to her aversion to taxes, she paid none in 2010, despite being worth, according to "Forbes Magazine," about $2.8 billion dollars. Before he launched his crusade against the collective bargaining rights of working people, Governor Walker held this conversation with Diane Hendricks.

DIANE HENDRICKS: Any chance we’ll ever get to be a completely red state, and work on these Unions?


DIANE HENDRICKS: And become a right-to-work? What can we do to help you?

SCOTT WALKER: Well, we`re going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. The first step is we`re going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer.

BILL MOYERS: And so he did. Walker also hauled in checks from the Texas oligarch Bob Perry for nearly half a million. Perry made his fortune in the home building business and is best known nationally for contributing four and a half million dollars to the Swift Boat campaign that smeared the Vietnam War record of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry back in 2004.

Then there’s casino king Sheldon Adelson, who gave Scott Walker’s cause $250,000. Of course, that’s a drop in the old champagne bucket compared to the $21 million Adelson’s family gave to the super PAC that kept Newt Gingrich in the race long after the formaldehyde had been ordered. Adelson did not long mourn Gingrich’s passing, and is now giving as much as $10 million to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future.

Next up on Scott Walker’s list of beneficent plutocrats: Rich DeVos, owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team and co-founder of the home products giant Amway, which, thanks to Republican leaders in Congress, once shared in a $19 million tax break after a million-dollar DeVos contribution to the Republican Party. He’s a long-time member of the secretive Council for National Policy, a who’s who of right-wing luminaries.

And Louis Moore Bacon, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Moore Capital – which in 2010 was fined $25 million for attempted commodities manipulation. A big backer of Romney, he, too came to Walker’s aid in Wisconsin.

I could go on and name more, but you get the picture. These are the people who are helping to fund what the journalist Joe Hagan describes as a “tsunami of slime.”

FEMALE: Newt Gingrich: too much baggage.

BILL MOYERS: Even as they are afforded respectability in the value-free world of plutocracy, they can hide the fingerprints they leave on the bleeding corpse of democracy.

And that’s how the wealthy one percent does its dirty business. They want to own this election. So if there are any of you left out there with millions to burn, better buy your candidate now, while supplies last.

Bill Moyers Essay: How to Own an Election

In this Bill Moyers Essay, Bill calls out some of the biggest political and super PAC donors, revealing how easy it is for the wealthy one percent to sway an election.

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  • Susan R.

    Thank you, Mr. Moyers.

  • Billandjudith

    You’re welcome. But thanks for caring.

  • Sylvia J. McCollough

    Thank God there are still a few brave souls with the decency to speak out against the corruption over taking our Nation.  My heart breaks every time I see another election bought by special interest money; what it’s doing to our Democracy and how the middle class/poor people of America are loosing more of their rights in each election; yet, they don’t even realize what is happening.  I’m in agreement with Michael Moore’s book, “The Dumbing Down of America.”  More and more we see how the destruction of our public education is affecting our democratic society.  People care more about NASCAR than who represents them in government…..and they are too ignorant to realize what’s going on in their own Country.

  • Janice

    To the White House, The Obama Campaign, and anyone asking for Money to run in an American Election

    June 16, 2012

    To whom it should concern:

    People seem to have forgotten that we don’t buy elections in this country. I am willing to contribute, but not with money. Money is the problem. This is the help I am willing to give:

    Who is Romney trying to kid? Corporations don’t want to provide American jobs. They want profits first. Once education funding in this country is gutted, where will these corporations get their talent? Certainly not from here in the USA. If machines and foreigners can do the work more cheaply and better, there is absolutely no reason to hire Americans. Send the illegals back home? Sure. To protect American jobs? Ha! To make sure most Americans lose their power to work any but the lowest paying jobs. Then bust the unions. At least the under-30 immigrants can help prop up the low-end tax base, which is increasingly needed to ensconce the super rich.

    Plutocracy has gained a foothold and our government is spiraling out of control.  Politicians were paid by the powerful to gut the regulations that kept the powerful in check. Now, no one with decency  and the public in their hearts can afford to run. And the public doesn’t care, because there are very few telling them the truth.

    Instead, keep ALL special interest money OUT of EVERY American election. If the FCC forced all media outlets, (signals still travel through the public air and cables through the public soil, do they not?) to provide political speech air time pro bono on a limited, but effective basis, under a version of that old regulation, the Fairness Doctrine, the big money would not be needed.  Then set aside a public corporation with taxpayer money specifically designed to protect our democracy. One that funds political campaigns fairly and equally. That would throw Citizens’ United straight to the curb. Even if Corporations are deemed “citizens,” we can at least keep them from counting as more than one.

    Those who fight the Disclose Act should have their own funding sources publicly exposed. Pass additional laws that keep lawyers and PR firms from taking cash to subvert democracy. There should be ethics regulations for lobbyists, whose educational value will now be unable to carry a penny in bribery, and whose special interest backers are now forced to provide no-strings-attached funding in equal measure to the opposing view. 

    You have no idea what has already happened to our courts. In some states, Judges can now take your rights whenever they feel like it without legal reason, and no one is willing to stop them.

    Watch Bill Moyers and Company from June 15, 2012. This show was moved off the main PBS channel locally and placed on one of its sub-channels. The local version of news and commentary that remains on the main channel is funded by Flint Hills Resources, formerly known as the Koch Refinery.


    Fritzie Borgwardt

    Formerly paid independent journalist



    cc: Bill Moyers

  • Anonymous

    Bill Moyers, the guy who personally smeared Barry Goldwater with the famous “Daisy” ad, who never spoke out against the huge sums of money Obama raised in 2008, now gets indignant about money in elections.  Well, Bill, I hope you and your fellow supporters of big government are never able to suppress free speech by suppressing campaign contributions.

  • Dantana

    The billions of education dollars seem to be doing a bang up job as of now?

    More and more fed dollars have not added up to a better school system and better results in the classroom. Someone needs to put 2 and 2 together and get a clue.

    Perhaps an audit of the NEA, the Department of Education and local school boards are in order.

  • Rmccartie

    be careful who you upset Bill…..the guns will focus on you and you will be classified as a conspiracy theorist and then like Jessie Ventura you’ll be locked out of the Mainstream Media !

  • mbrecker

    Why does this system continue? Two reasons. One,  not all but many average people don’t want actual change badly enough. Two, many of the “expert commentators” have a vested financial interest in perpetuating the current system just as much as the One Percent do.

    How many books have been written about money in politics in the past year? All are essentially marketed as telling “the real story”. Now, can you tell an actual difference between them? I can’t. While it’s not illegal to write books, make CD’s and do lecture tours to make a living, it bothers me that not all but many of these “experts” try to distance themselves from this problem. Actually, if this didn’t exist, what would they write about?

  • Enginenerdy

     [citation needed]

    cool story bro.

  • Lillian Martin

    I agree that our country has lost its democratic makeup.
     But where to begin to get us back on track ? 
     I can only think—–Our Forefathers who devised  our wonderful Constitution —-did not get paid —-they  did what they did  for the benefit of all —–at their own expense !
      If we could  take away the big salaries paid to politicos
    and cut back on them as well — that would be  one way.

    The damage done  to our country and the world  is tragic———one hope is to get legitimate judges into the Supreme  Court  again—-that would be a start.

    Also if we oould  manage  more of  the “good” publicity
    the people  would do the rest.  We are not  properly informed  — so we cannot vote  them out!

  • Anonymous

    I have been watching the show and find it intelligent and informing.In RI all we have for a discussion base is a few AM Radio stations that have an Extreme Right Wing view.

  • Dick and Jane

    We were much taken with the essay , “How to Own an Election”. We receive the program on PBS/SoCal and, as always, look forward to Myers&Co as the only truly information-filled program on televixion.

    We would like to post a hard copy of Mr. Moyers’ essay at the election offices we are now staffing for U.S. Rep Lois Capps and our California candidates for Assembly and Senate, for all the others that are so hard at work to keep our country free of MONEY and the corruption that follows the dollars.

    Rep. Capps is facing an election in which Super PAC donors are beginning to line up for the push that will begin in late July. The stakes could not be higher.

    Thank you for returning to television and for your insights and those of your guests. You give us hope that there are many others out there that share our concerns.

  • moderator


    Everyone at Moyers & Co. is very pleased that you are going to post Mr. Moyers’ essay. Thank you!

  • Tdeans1946

    While Bill speaks the truth, and we can all see it (for those with eyes to see) I wonder if there is really anything that we can do to correct the course of history and create a new form of democracy, or a completely new form of society and leadership so desperately needed. Since the beginnings of civilized man there have been those who use control of wealth to manipulate and control the masses, this will probably be true as long as man continues to exist. How does one without money, or power, combat these trends, and survive?

  • Steven B

    One thing I always wonder when I hear about all the PAC money being thrown around, who’s there to catch it?  I’m assuming a great majority is spent on various media to deliver the spin, slur, and poison it takes to woo a gullible and/or clueless electorate.  I wonder how many media markets are owned by friends or family of those throwing this wealth around.  These “PACers” are likely savvy business people, to have accumulated such wealth.  They must reap a decent return on their PAC investments, to keep (re)filling so many cups.  As long as their money controls politics and policy it will be impossible to change  or reform these laws, and embrace a more democratic ideal of governance.

  • Anonymous

    The PAC’s of the government-worker labor unions are in no way more honest or moral than those of corporate heads in trying to sway voters. I’ll never forget how school vouchers were narrowly defeated in California 20 years ago when the educator PAC blasted the media with their primary argument: witch schools would rise if vouchers were passed.

  • Anonymous

    If they’re trying to “gut” education funding, they’re doing a terrible job of it. The U.S. funding per student is positively bloated compared to other developed countries.

  • Tec9

    There is basically only one rule that voters need to learn and remember. If you want to be governed and controlled by money, vote Republican.  No matter what else they may say, their focus and purpose in government is to protect the rich and the big corporations. You need only look at their voting records to verify that.
    If you want a government that is more in tune with the 99% vote Democrat. Regardless of the size of the government, they will work more toward helping the middle class and poor. Check their voting records.
    So if you can’t figure out who does what for which group, and listen to what the Super Pac masters spew, there is no hope of ever getting away from government run by the rich and the corporations.

  • None

     The democrats are owned by the super rich as well as the GOP. These people want all their bases covered.  Obamacare was the result of the Insurance Industry needing to increase their stock holder profits so they worked the system against us and basically did not change anything but take more out of everyones pocket by force of the IRS and larger government which has to be paid for by more taxes on the poor and middle class.  Rich pay nothing in taxes.  Democrats and Republicans are off my voting list.  Neither will get my support from now on.  They are all in it to feather their own nest at our expense.  It would be wise to leave your favorite party in the dust like they are doing to you. 

  • Ollie Bass

    Eliminating the Corporate “personhood” that gives them 1st Amendment rights would be a start

  • Ollie Bass

    politics policy and the media

  • clearthinker

    True, too much big money.  Except, on the whole, Democrat big money is to counterbalance the Republican blatant take over of our once democracy.  Taxes are lower and IRS will be the same IRS.  There are no more taxes on middle and lower, but certainly are paying more than capital gains loving Republicans.  Easy fix, which is not going to happen with a Republican house and a filibustering minority Senate, is to raise the rates on the wealthy and close loopholes.

  • clearthinker

    Their pay is nothing compared to the pay offs they receive from lobbyists.

  • clearthinker

    The majority of the money raised for Obama was from regular people.  There were limits on individual donations in 2008.

  • clearthinker

    There are so many PhDs bringing down the big bucks, walking around district offices and doing nothing except looking snutty.

  • Semirade

    I haven’t commented before – I don’t have a computer any longer, but from my iPhone I want to say that Mr Moyers represents a life line to me. I never miss a program. His is an essential voice that mustn’t be ignored! His latest program, revealing the SCOTUS decision on “Knox” was a shocking revelation! As was the intro to Philip Appleman! I’m so grateful – at times when I discuss politics I feel that I’m “pissing in the wind” (sorry if that’s offensive). He articulates so well my own hopes and fears regarding the direction the country appears to be heading!
    Thanking PBS and Bill Moyers for the most important program in my life time.

  • Anonymous

    Why are not ask Republicans, who have had tax cuts to the “Job creators” since Bush…why is there an unemployment problem?

    Why not ask Republicans, why,  when they believe the wealthy tax cuts are the creators of jobs,  do they blame the President for the unemployment problem?

    Simple concept.   I ask it all the time, and have never once had anything but teeth grinding silence, in return.

  • Anonymous

    We have not done the best job of being at President Obama’s back, when he has stood up to the Republicans give-more-breaks-to-the-wealthy.

    You and I are both see the Republican agenda for what it has become.   It is in a sad place, I think.

  • Anonymous

    Healthcare Insuarance companies failed when it came to competing at the top, worldwide.

    When Bad business doesn’t work for the customer, then looking at how other nation’s who are rated better should be done..and do it better.

    The point is Bad business vs. good governement, then.   At least, it should be given the chance, just as business had the chance, to do it better.

  • James Lesley

    One expert witness, Jack Abramoff, explains how the dialog goes, starting after 1hour 11 minutes. Well intentioned newly elected. What does Jack say when he approaches them?

  • Corey

    what? u mean the money spent on all the waste, that does not go to the teachers and does not reach the student.