George Soros, Haim Saban, Paul Singer, Kenneth C. Griffin – these were among the many Americans anxiously awaiting the Iowa results last night, and they had a right to be restless – they’re paying for our so-called democracy.
Change and insurrection may seem to be in the air, but to get on air with that message takes enormous sums of money. Opensecrets.org reported yesterday that Soros leads all givers in the past half-year with $8 million invested in two Hillary Clinton’s SuperPACs, with Saban contributing $3 million to a Clinton SuperPAC. With Bernie Sanders exhorting his followers toward a political revolution, the contributions to Clinton may be better termed revolution insurance.
Marco Rubio was a winner of the media expectations game last night. Rubio’s SuperPAC has $2.5 million reasons to be grateful to billionaire hedge fund manager Singer. Nearly $100 million dollars of devotion to democratic ideals flowed into various SuperPACS in the second half of 2015. Twenty-nine individuals gave more $1 million or more; Soros and some others gave much more.
Two candidates have eschewed SuperPACs. Donald Trump frequently mocks his Republican opponents for kowtowing to the Koch Brothers, Singer, and other megabucks patrons. Bernie Sanders has kept up nicely with Hillary Clinton while actively baiting Wall Street.
Last week Trump continued his unorthodox campaign by declining to appear at a debate sponsored by Fox News because moderator Megyn Kelly had been tough on him in a prior appearance. He knew just where to hit a media corporation: “Let’s see how much money Fox is going to make on the debate without me.” Fox stood its ground. Earlier Trump had tried to pry $5 million out of CNN to go to veterans groups, using the same logic: “The ratings stem from his presence.”
Trump knows his business. In November the Republican National Committee pulled a debate commitment away from CNBC because the GOP was dissatisfied with its moderators. CNBC had charged up to $250,000 for a thirty second ad in the debate it had hosted thus making, as the network’s chairman bragged, “a good investment for the network.”
Clinton’s difficulties in fending off Sanders may be captured in one CNN/Money headline from October 15, 2015: Wall Street has made Hillary Clinton a millionaire. “Clinton made $3.15 million in 2013 alone from speaking to firms like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and UBS.” She even out earned former President Clinton. Goldman paid him $200,000 for a 2013 speech, but paid her $225,000.
On the Republican side, Ted Cruz has risen as a populist crusader, speaking to the pain of those left behind by the Washington cartel. He barely skipped a beat at recent news that his Texas senate campaign had been sustained by $1 million in loans from Citibank and the ever giving Goldman. History has shown few populists treated with such courtesy by the big banks.
The zeitgeist of the day is anger and frustration, on the Republican side dark fury at an establishment that has failed to deliver on its unrealistic promises; on the Democratic side, excitement for a candidate who credibly attacks a rigged economy.
The anger is not likely to abate, in 2016 or thereafter. The product the money purchases is television ads, which deliver simple solutions to our problems. But the problems are not simple; American government is complex and designed to demand compromise. We’ve been trained to respond to thirty second cues. When the promises are not kept, the citizenry reacts in anger and confusion, responding to even simpler solutions from political carny men. So the modern campaign fails the nation’s citizens.