February 20th, 2012

Our Democracy, Bought and Sold

Writing for the New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew examines Super PACs, the war on voting rights, and the whimpering end of our democratic process at the hands of moneyed interests.

By any objective standard Santorum had no business being in the presidential race. His mediocre Senate record and his scratchy intolerance of opposing views on social issues were bound to get him in trouble. Santorum not only opposed abortion without the federally required exception for rape or the life of the mother, but he even opposed contraceptives, saying that the states should regulate them.

Having come triumphantly from Iowa, where he was first announced to have nearly tied Romney (only to have it announced more than two weeks later that he had won), Santorum found himself facing less sympathetic audiences in New Hampshire, particularly young people, and he was often met with boos. Santorum’s dismal vote in New Hampshire (he came in fifth) would ordinarily have sent a candidate home. But he was able to fight on in South Carolina thanks to the generosity of Foster Freiss, a billionaire mutual fund tycoon in Wyoming. Freiss gave the Santorum Super PAC the Red, White, and Blue Fund $1 million to keep going. According to Politico, Freiss issued instructions on the types of ads it should run while traveling in Santorum’s entourage.

Read the full article here.

February 16th, 2012

Who’s Creating the Negative Super PAC Ads?

Jane Mayer, writing for the New Yorker, profiles Larry McCarthy, famous for making the racially-tinged Willie Horton ad used against Michael Dukakis in 1988, now making ads for Mitt Romney’s Restore Our Futre PAC.

In 2004, McCarthy believed that he had nearly achieved his ambition—the “perfect spot”—with an ad for George W. Bush, called “Ashley’s Story.” Created for another independent group, the Progress for America Voter Fund, it showed Bush embracing a teen-age girl whose mother had been killed on September 11, 2001, in Al Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Center. The girl, Ashley, looked into the camera and said of Bush, “He’s the most powerful man in the world, and all he wants to do is make sure I’m safe.” The group bought more than fourteen million dollars’ worth of airtime for the ad, much of it in the key swing state of Ohio, where Ashley lived; it was the biggest single ad buy of the 2004 Presidential campaign. Two backers, both California business executives, contributed five million dollars apiece. Bob Shrum, a Democratic operative, was the principal strategist for Bush’s opponent, Senator John Kerry, and he blames the ad for the Democrats’ defeat. “The ad was pretty close to decisive in Ohio,” Shrum said. “And Ohio was the whole thing.

Read the full article here.

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