From DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan

Fyi … the following memo went out to local editorial boards and columnists today as the issue of anonymous donors picks up traction with voters outside the beltway,  who are starting to ask which special interests candidates that benefit from undisclosed donors will be beholden to.  In addition to the polling noted in the memo below, and as reported in the Washington Post  this afternoon, a SurveyUSA/MoveOn poll showed that not only are a strong majority of registered voters aware of this issue, they also feel as if they have the right to know who is bankrolling these ads and are LESS LIKELY to trust a candidate who benefits from secret corporate donations “to improve the economy.”

To:                  Editorial Writers and other Interested Parties
From:             Brad Woodhouse, the Democratic National Committee
Re:                  Transforming Our Democracy: Secretive Donations and Anonymous Ads
Date:               October 14, 2010
Something is happening in this election that goes beyond partisan politics, that is more important than who is up or who is down and has potentially greater consequences than which political party comes out on top on November 2nd.  It is also something that has far reaching consequences for our Democracy and that too few Americans know about.  What are we referring to? The growing and pernicious effects of secret, special interest money being used to determine the outcome of our elections.


Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reported that four Republican groups – Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS; former Republican Senator Norm Coleman’s American Action Network; and the Commission on Hope, Growth, and Opportunity, established by a Republican consultant who managed Bob Dole’s campaign for President in 1996 – plan to launch a $50 million coordinated advertising campaign in advance of the November 2nd elections.  Given the high stakes in this election, such spending might seem routine, if it weren’t for the groups’ mysterious funding sources: like many other well-financed and highly active Republican organizations this year, three of the four groups participating in the $50 million campaign refuse to reveal their donors while the fourth does so only infrequently.
Anonymous special interests and unnamed corporations are pouring tens of millions of dollars into electoral politics this fall, money that has the potential to tip the scales in close races across the country, with the vast majority of such spending by any measure benefiting Republican candidates.  Yet the American people have absolutely no way to evaluate the motives behind these ads which are being produced by groups created explicitly to raise unlimited funds and to hide the identities of their special interest sponsors.
As the Media Matters Action Network noted yesterday morning, Republican groups have “dropped a CEO's salary to influence our elections in just a few days. Makes you wonder what they're expecting in return…”  It’s a question that voters, pundits and the press should be asking this election season as our democracy and electoral process is being auctioned off to the highest bidder – in secret.
From big oil to big insurance to, potentially, big foreign companies, the special interests funding third-party electoral groups this year aren’t simply interested in bankrolling campaigns– they expect results from the candidates they support.  And if you take a close look at the policies adopted by many of the Republican candidates backed by such groups this year – from rolling back health insurance reform and its Patients’ Bill of Rights to undoing Wall Street reform to opposing legislation that would roll back special interest tax breaks which have resulted in American companies shifting jobs and profits overseas  – it seems those groups might already be getting what they’re paying for.
And all of this, of course, was not unforeseen – the vast rise in corporate and special interest spending by right wing groups in support of Republican candidates expected to do their bidding in Congress in the aftermath of the Citizens United decision was predicted by everyone from President Obama to neutral observers, pundits and campaign watchdog groups.  And, it has played out exactly as predicted:
Ø  Numerous right-wing groups, many founded by the architects of the failed economic policies of the last decade which benefited the well-to-do and the corporate special interests, grew like weeds.

Ø  Big banks, big insurance companies and big oil used these groups to fight tooth and nail against President Obama and Democrats’ efforts to pass needed reforms to health care, Wall Street, student lending and our use of energy.

Ø  Republicans joined big banks, big insurance companies and big oil in opposing these reforms and blocking others that would benefit middle class Americans at the expense of the corporate special interests.

Ø  Republicans have joined big banks, big insurance companies and big oil in fighting to return to the failed policies of the previous administration, including extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans at a cost of $700 billion and preserving special interest tax breaks which encourage American companies to shift jobs and profits overseas.

Ø  Republicans joined their corporate special interest allies, the very entities which had the most to gain by influencing elections as a result of the Citizens United decision, in blocking the Disclose Act, which would have at least required these groups to reveal who is behind the millions of dollars in attack ads.

Ø  And now, by a margin of almost nine to one, Republican candidates are benefiting over Democratic candidates from the spending of outside groups that take unlimited funds from secret donors.

All of this is not a coincidence.  Republicans in Congress support  policies favoring the super rich and corporate special interests at the expense of middle class families.  Republicans oppose requirements that groups taking money from corporate special interests disclose their donors.  Republicans receive a massive infusion of secret, special interest spending in support of their campaigns.  Need one even ask what will happen when the sources of all these contributions come calling on Republicans on Capitol Hill?         
With that in mind, there are three things that should be understood regarding outside spending this year:
1.      Third-party expenditures this year are unprecedented in size and scope, and overwhelmingly benefit Republican candidates;

2.      Republicans enabled and embraced anonymous expenditures by cheering the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which opened up the floodgates for this type of spending and by blocking the DISCLOSE Act, which would have required these groups to disclose their sources of funding so the public could evaluate the motives behind these ads for themselves;

3.       The American people are angry about this perversion of the Democratic process, because they deserve to know who the candidates they are voting on will be fighting for in Congress.

Outside Spending in the 2010 Midterms is Dwarfing Outside Expenditures Made in the 2006 Midterms
According to a Washington Post analysis, outside interest groups are spending five times as much ($80 million) on the 2010 midterms as they did in the 2006 midterm elections ($16 million).  In addition, more than half of the money being spent this year comes from groups that do not disclose their donors.  In contrast, the donor sources of more than 90% of the 2006 expenditures were disclosed. [Washington Post, 10/4/10]
According to the Wall Street Journal, “Evan Tracey, head of Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks campaign-ad spending, called the combination of ad outlays by the groups ‘historic’ in its size, an assessment echoed by other campaign-finance experts and officials.  [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/10]
In addition, those outlays are going primarily to Republican candidates.  Indeed, the Wesleyan Media Project reported that outside interest groups are spending almost nine times as much on Republican candidates as they are on Democratic candidates and among the top ten interest group spenders, Republican-leaning organizations have outspent Democratic ones by ten-to-one.  [Wesleyan Media Project, 10/13/10]  In fact, in some races outside spending has topped spending by campaigns.  In the Colorado Senate race for example, outside groups including Karl Rove’s American Crossroads have spend $6.5 million since August 10 on advertisements, many of them for Republican candidate Ken Buck.  In contrast, the Buck campaign itself has spent just $1.1 million and the Bennet campaign has spent just short of $2 million. [Denver Post, 10/5/10]
Senate Race Combined Spending By American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS and American Action Fund
 New Hampshire
Secret Donations and Increased Outside Spending Have Been Embraced & Applauded by Republicans
The Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which opened the door to this year’s flood of anonymous donations and third-party spending, was cheered by Republican leaders.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that with the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court took a step toward “restoring…first Amendment rights.”  [AP, 1/21/10]  RNC Chairman Michael Steele said that decision served as “an affirmation of the Constitutional rights provided to Americans under the first Amendment.” [RNC Statement, 1/21/10]  And Senator John Cornyn said, “I can’t think of a more fundamental first Amendment issue.”  [New York Times, 1/9/10]
In addition to supporting the Citizens United decision, which places the well-being of special interests above the best interests of middle-class American voters, Republicans have repeatedly blocked passage of the DISCLOSE Act, which would increase disclosure requirements regarding donors to outside interest groups.  Only two Republicans supported passage of the DISCLOSE bill in the House, and Republicans continue to filibuster this critical legislation in the Senate.
The American People are Angry at the Amount of Special Interest Spending, and They Overwhelmingly Support Efforts to Limit Corporate Influence on Elections
According to a recent Hart Research Associates poll, 85% of Americans worry that corporations have captured too much influence in the political system and 77% think Congress should support measures to limit the amount that U.S. corporations can spend to influence elections. [Washington Independent, 7/27/10]
In addition, 47% of respondents in a recent Bloomberg polls said they would be less likely to support a candidate whose campaign was aided by advertising by anonymous business groups. [Bloomberg, 10/10/10]
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Hari Sevugan
National Press Secretary
Democratic National Committee
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