I don’t often link to right-wing sites to approve of something, but recently John Hawkins of Right Wing News published the results of a study showing how right-wing PACs spent contributors’ money. And — what a not surprise — there are many PACs soliciting money for “conservative” politicians that are spending little to no money on behalf of those politicians. Even PACs that are allegedly linked to a particular candidate aren’t spending money on behalf of that candidate. For example, the National Draft Ben Carson for President PAC spent only 4 percent of nearly $13 million received on efforts to draft Ben Carson for President. It may actually surprise you not in the least that SarahPAC spent maybe 7 percent of more than $3 million to help political candidates, which is the ostensible purpose of SarahPAC.
The PACs are not necessarily guilty of criminal activity. There are all sorts of legal ways to move money around to confound oversight. A PAC might set up a couple of vendors, possibly owned by people associated with the PAC, and send the vendors $100,000 each. The vendors then print $1,000 worth of fliers and pocket the rest. But on the PACs paperwork, it shows $200,000 spent on political action.
The Good Roger Ailes is derisive of Hawkins’ work, mostly because — duh, you didn’t know this already? Plus Hawkins’s analysis has lots of blind spots, some willful. But the larger point stands.
There is much speculation on rightie blogs that left-wing PACs are just as bad and probably worse. And I welcome similar analysis of leftie PACs. One of my gripes about progressivism going back many years is that, until the last decade or so, about the only activism going on was coming from single-issue advocacy groups that incessantly raised money but never seemed to accomplish anything. I may have told the story about how I stopped giving money to NARAL back in the 1980s, because as far as I could tell my donations were all being spent on salaries and office furniture.
But progressives across the board have been much more opposed to no-holds-barred contributions and want significant campaign finance reform that would stop a lot of this, whereas conservatives oppose reform and like the system just as it is, thank you, except they’d like to be able to bar unions from political activity if they could. But just unions; not the Koch Brothers.
And the even larger point is that the Right is mostly a grift, anyway. Characters like Richard Viguerie, Ann Coulter, etc., have been cashing in for years by doing nothing but raising alarm about the Coming Darkness of Liberalism When You Will Be Forced to Convert to Islam and Eat Babies. I wrote awhile back:
If bank robbers rob banks because that’s where the money is, grifters infest the Right because that’s where the gullibility is. People who can be made to believe in death panels can also be sold on dubious investment schemes, survivalist kits and quack arthritis cures. It’s too easy. See especially Rick Perlstein, “The Long Con.”
At least, I’m not aware of anyone using leftie political networks to sell cancer cures, dubious investments schemes or the leftie equivalent of survivalist kits, whatever that might be.
There are also subcategories of specialized grifters such as the NRA/firearm industry and climate change denialists/petroleum industry. But it’s all of a piece, really.
I wrote recently that the only substantive difference between the “extremists” and the “moderates/establishment” in the Republican Party is that “the ‘moderates’ realize elections have to be won, and the ‘extremists’ don’t know that, or don’t care.” When you look at someone like Ted Cruz, who unlike many others may not be crazy or stupid, one suspects his long game isn’t winning the White House. The long game is making a ton of money. In this country, once you become a reliable supplier of red meat for the Right, you are set for life. Whether you ever actually accomplish anything that’s good for anyone is irrelevant.
Now Paul Waldman writes about how rich conservatives are bilking the rank and file:
This particular con is just one variant of a wider system, one that has been in operation for decades. While there may be some cases of similar scams on the left, they’re absolutely rampant on the right, because they’ve been so central to the conservative movement for so long. In the 1960s, conservatives realized that the nationwide grassroots network that activists built to support Barry Goldwater could be an ongoing source of funds, not only for conservative causes but for people wanting to sell snake oil. Lists of names and addresses became a valued commodity, built, bought and sold again and again for the benefit of those who controlled them and those who used them (Rick Perlstein lays out that history here).
That tradition continues, but in new and more complicated ways that I like to call the circle of scam. Organizations like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks pay radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity big money to offer on-air endorsements that are the radio equivalent of ‘native advertising.’ Future presidential candidate Mike Huckabee sells his email list on ‘miracle cancer cures’ hidden in the Bible. Conservative media figures like Dick Morris solicit contributions that somehow are never turned to the political ends they claim. Nobody wants to upend the system, because too many people are getting a taste.
The common thread can be found in the marks: the little old lady in Tupelo who sends in $50 thinking that she’s striking a blow against Barack Obama, the couple in Topeka who hopes Mike Huckabee’s biblical cancer cure can save their daughter’s life, the man in Toledo who thinks that the group with ‘Tea Party’ in its name is going to have an impact on his state’s races. What none of them know is that their money is just going to make somebody who’s already rich a little bit richer.
It’s been a hugely successful scam. However, there are signs more and more people are getting elected who don’t know it’s a scam. Could The Stupid eventually become so blatant even wingnuts notice? Hmm, I’m not holding my breath until that happens. But maybe Peak Wingnut will finally come to pass.