Sunlight

 

Just keepin’ the sun shining here. Lee Drutman from the Sunlight Foundation recently shed light on the post-Citizens United campaign contributions of the elite class that has both consumed our democratic system and dominated our cultural-political discourse. It doesn’t hurt to review the foundation’s research. The findings are stunning:

In the 2012 election, 28 percent of all disclosed political contributions came from just 31,385 people. In a nation of 313.85 million, these donors represent the 1% of the 1%, an elite class that increasingly serves as the gatekeepers of public office in the United States.

Conclusions

The U.S. now has a campaign finance system where a tiny slice of individuals – 31,385 people, not even enough to fill half of a professional football stadium – collectively account for more than a quarter of all individual contributions (that we can trace), even though they represent just one in ten thousand Americans. Every single member of Congress elected in 2012 received a contribution from this group of individuals, and the vast majority of those elected (84 percent) received more money from the “1% of the 1%” than they did from all small donations (under $200).

A tiny sliver of Americans who can afford to give tens of thousands of dollars in a single election cycle have become the gatekeepers of public office in America. Through the growing congressional dependence on their contributions, they increasingly set the boundaries and limits of American political discourse – who can run for office, what their priorities should be and even what can be said in public. And in an era of unlimited campaign contributions, the power of the 1% of the 1% only stands to grow with each passing year.

Macedonian Sun or Sun of Vergina, royal symbol of Philip of Macedon and Alexander the Great

 Some highlights and comparison/contrasts illuminated by the Sunlight Foundation:

While both parties draw on the generosity of these elites, 40 percent more 1% of the 1% donors predominantly supported Republicans than predominantly supported Democrats. We also find that conservative Republican members of Congress depend more on 1% of the 1% donors than moderate Republicans do, suggesting a polarizing effect of big money, at least on the political right. There is no corresponding relationship among Democrats.

 

Aten the Sun Disk with Akhenaten and Nefertiti

In 2012, the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised more than half (54.2 percent) of its $105.8 million from the 1% of the 1%, and the National Republican Congressional Committee raised one third (33.0 percent) of its $140.6 million from the 1% of the 1%. Democratic party committees depend less on the 1% of the 1%. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised 12.9 percent of its $128.9 million from these top donors, and the Democratic Congressional Committee raised 20.1 percent of its $143.9 million from 1% of the 1% donors.

Embedded in the report is a break down of non-committee filings with the FEC, the Dark Money – an additional $305 million dollars from purportedly “non political” entities. Here’s a little break down of how that money gets distributed between the parties:

Negative: 78%   Opposes Democrats: $200,753,247.71   Opposes Republicans: $38,595,640.91

Positive: 20%   Supports Democrats: $11,023,624.70   Supports Republicans: $49,812,021.11

 

Trundholm Sun Chariot, Late Nordic Bronze Age, 1800-1600 BCE
The flooding of campaign cash has become widely known post-Citizens United, perhaps the most important take-away on the wealthy elite is this observation by the Sunlight Foundation:
Their influence is very rarely found in simple favor trading. Rather, their influence arises from something subtler yet far more significant: shaping the limits of acceptable political discourse, one conversation at a time.

Be sure also to read the embedded article by Page, Bartels, and Seawright:

Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans

Their research shows that the elite class typically favors policy measures unfavorable to the American people as a whole or patently at odds with the public interest. Those policy preferences obviously reflect political views which tend to be more conservative than the average American. Here’s a snippet:

We find that they are extremely active politically and that they are much more conservative than the American public as a whole with respect to important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs. Variation within this wealthy group suggests that the top one-tenth of 1 percent of wealth- holders (people with $40 million or more in net worth) may tend to hold still more conservative views that are even more distinct from those of the general public. We suggest that these distinctive policy preferences may help account for why certain public policies in the United States appear to deviate from what the majority of US citizens wants the government to do. If this is so, it raises serious issues for democratic theory.

Page, Bartels,  and Seawright correctly speculate that policy preferences are an accurate indicator of political affiliation. As predicted, the wealthy respondents identified primarily as Republican and Conservative Democrat:

A variety of studies employing general population samples have shown that affluent Americans are more likely than those further down the income scale to think of them- selves as Republicans.54 The generally conservative policy views of our wealthy SESA respondents also make it nat- ural to suppose that they should be predominantly Repub- lican. And indeed, that is the case. Including independents who lean toward a party, about twice as many of our respondents considered themselves Republicans (58 per- cent) as considered themselves Democrats (27 percent). In this group—as in the general population—party affil- iations were strongly related to liberal/conservative ideol- ogy, with Republicans generally more conservative and Democrats more liberal.55

However, on economic issues wealthy Democratic respondents tended to be more conservative than Dem- ocrats in the general population. It may be that these Democrats’ partisan attachments were grounded in social backgrounds and family histories, or in views about moral and social issues, rather than in economic policy preferences.

 

As we enter into the dialogic arena of policy and platform, we do well to keep in mind who is influencing our views as a populace and those of our elected representatives. Clearly the most conservative elements in our society whose interests are those of the wealthy elite are private interests of the privileged few; not the interests of the public majority and the public good.

Here comes the sun. Doot-n-doo-doo.

 

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17 thoughts on “Sunlight

  1. You just shook up this whole board, PJ. Now members may realize why I sometimes sound like a conspiracy nut and support #MoveToAmend.org. Though I have no idea how it’s going to get us a constitutional convention. I’m actually surprised at the number of the 1% of the 1% who support Democrats. My major hope has been in the much-maligned Catholic Church, which has been falling exponentially by trying to hold on to principals actually denied by Jesus of Nazareth. I would not like to see the Vatican go into receivership, however. She is, at the very least, an historical treasure of incalculable worth.

      1. Did see it. Think of Pope Francis’ efforts like Obama’s first hundred days; just stopping the bleeding. Hopefully this will translate later into the Church’s revisiting their pre-John Paul II liberal stand for humanity and Vatican 11 inclusiveness.

        1. Like someone said in the comments in that link, I previously stated in comments here that I made the realization about the hypocrisy of RC theology, in my prior RC upbringing, about at the age of reason. I do really like da pope. No offense intended. He’d fit right in at any beer summit.

    1. CatKin, I like your comparison to “the much-maligned Catholic Church.”

      With changes, or should I say a return, to a priority and practice of basic principles of Jesus as expressed in the Beatitudes, I have hope with Pope Francis, who is a Jesuit, and also with various nun groups, with the Voice of the Faithful, and with others.

      In a way, religion is local much as is politics. As an example; on occasion I attend Sunday Mass at one of the Churches in a major, nearby city with a large congregation and school. The Pastor is elderly, obviously schooled in the Catholic faith of fifty years ago. But in his Confessional, what was formerly a common sin is currently a “fault.” I am reminded of a favorite priest of the students at a Catholic university long ago here in Wisconsin. He too was a Jesuit priest described by one student, using hyperbole, as only concerned if you had committed “rape, arson, or murder” or in other words harming others rather than helping them.

      To return to my visit at a nearby city, among the regular ushers at the church are two women. Because of my disability and cane, I have difficulty siting in a pew and feel more comfortable sitting on a bench in the very back. These two are very solicitous of my condition and offer to bring me Communion and do. They appear to me to be related or friends, with one wearing male apparel, described by some as a “butch,” and the other attired in feminine garb.

      Yes, I believe there is hope for our “much maligned Catholic Church” just as there is for the Democratic party. We have much to be proud of; we are the party of the people. We are in the majority although we have to overcome erroneous counts caused by unequal and unfair gerrymandering and big bucks.

      1. Thanks for responding to my concerns, Duane. I have known so many wonderful, brilliant and sensitive people during my lifelong involvement with the Church–both lay people and clergy, in this age and before–that I could never think of abandoning her. Thus I have much difficulty hearing about abuses or taking criticism even when it is merited. It becomes easy these days to consider the Church as irrelevant, unless you are speaking of some perceived indiscretion. But, in my case, it is Jesus Himself who has convinced me and gives me the strength to maintain my faith.

  2. Your promotion of Move to Amend doesn’t make you sound like a conspiracy nut, Catkin. 🙂 I have no idea how we’re going to get a constitutional convention either, but I do believe it will happen. The disproportional influence of the wealthy in our society is one of many issues that needs to be addressed at the amendment level – best to do it all it once. It’s coming together. The more we push the faster we’ll have that convention.

    1. You’re quite the shapeshifter, NQ. You sure do like to do a lot of frame-hopping. First oligarchy and money are the problem, then when your very point is justified empirically then oligarchy isn’t the problem; it’s something else. My God your contrarian insistence must make you miserable.

      A message to Charles Pierce regarding “this first amendment business” – Actually no, he doesn’t have a specially designated position free from scrutiny or oversight by the American people. Our representatives ARE the people not some separate entity. Journalism is an industry just like any other. The First Amendment didn’t create a special class of persons called “journalists” and it barely even addressed “journalism” as we know it today. EmoJournalists gotta get a grip. They are freed from prior restraint. Therefore their First Amendment Rights are intact. Anything beyond that that We the People need to regulate for our collective interest is (as it should be) open for limitation. Talk about privilege. Sheesh. Charles Pierce should turn his sights on his own profession and evaluate its worth and efficacy. At the moment, “journalism” is worthless and not doing its job to uphold democracy. Pierce included. No, journalism isn’t an adversarial body – it’s supposed to be a critical body – the two are not synonymous. The two are barely compatible. No, journalism isn’t supposed to work outside government. It’s supposed to work within it and with it as well as outside and around it because the government IS the people. Pierce is a joke and with his fanatically narcissistic editorial he reveals he’s not a journalist at all despite his formal degree. Pseudo-”journalists” like Pierce are working against the interests of the people and Constitutional intent by instantiating a privileged position for themselves; also for not treating their charge or their readership with the seriousness and respect both deserve. Pierce is worse than a joke. He’s a hindrance to republican-democracy. Pierce has reached the status of Fox-Drudge. Pretty disgraceful.

      Oh Nonquixote. Oh. Oh. Oh. Forever will we disagree on what has corrupted this democracy and what continues to erode it. That you would find local Democrats or Establishment Democrats eminently more threatening to democracy or more fascistic than the Conservative-Libertarian juggernaut is astounding. What’s killing this democracy is conservatism in all its permutations and that includes the conservatism absorbed by the EmoLeft. Can’t even call them Progressives anymore due to their cannibalistic sense and due to the lack of empiricism encoded within a permanently adversarial condition. That habit makes Emo”Lefters” like Pierce as culpable as the Tea Party, NeoLiberals, Libertarian political war mongers, and oligarchical overlords – culpable for dismantling and crippling government and for transforming We the People into petty tyrants – petulant, petty tyrants like Pierce.

      By the way, I liked your comment over there at the ACA post. Very nice summary of what we need to see happen with the healthcare system.

      1. My God your contrarian insistence must make you miserable.

        Any more non-sequiturs, PJ, you have a real propensity for them and for reiterating descriptions and words which I used in recent comments (shape-shifter)?

        Where have I said anywhere that any, “problems,” that I might perceive are mutually exclusive of any other influences or contributing factors?

        I never inferred your position on Libertarians was not part of the problem, I attempted to explain that discussing the Greater of Two Evils or the Lesser of two evils, was a distraction to addressing the real problems. Sorry you missed the point, entirely.

        Anyway, hoping you have a good weekend. Cheers.

        1. Sorry, NQ. My statement you highlighted isn’t non-sequitur; it’s conjecture. Not the same thing. Also, it wasn’t a cut. You are a contrarian. I can’t imagine harmony with as much conflict (much of it unnecessary) as you express. And sorry again, but your rubber-glue emulation as you’ve instantiated with non-sequitur is as clear as an un-mudded lake every time you do it. Non-sequitur still marks the primary character of your comments not mine. On a dialogic level your entire Pierce-Feinstein comment is non-sequitur in its attempt to reframe. Whenever you attempt to reframe absent any connection piece you commit non-sequitur. This you do frequently, and you did it again here. Nice try, but no go.

          I do understand your point(s) if you’ve been straightforward about what you claim your points to be. We simply disagree on what constitutes a problem. Save the economic sphere your problems with the Left aren’t really problems at all. Pierce’s editorial, for instance. He doesn’t articulate or reveal any problem, only paranoia mixed with misinformation. You and I simply disagree on the big picture and hence what distracting from the picture entails. It is highly likely we will never agree.

          Here’s the thing – your Pierce comment is an ideal exempla demonstrating how Conservative-Libertarian hysteria has become so pervasive. Come on. SPF 90 for “extreme Democratic leadership”? That’s pretty off the rails. And from a 21st century political perspective pretty cannibalistic. You misconstrue from whence extremism derives. Feinstein isn’t an extremist. The GOP and their Conservative-Libertarian puppeteers certainly are – to the point of preventing government from functioning at all. More to the point, the entire idea of a media shield law is a capitulation to hysterical extremism (perpetuated by the right and gullibly sucked up by parts of both Emo and Establishment Left). Pierce’s “thesis” is completely ahistorical and thoroughly revisionist. His reactionary hysteria (and subsequently your reactionary absorption) are a perfect case in point of how pervasive Conservative-Libertarian thinking and Conservative-Libertarian faux-populism has become – how it morphs among the Left. Not only what we think but how we think.

          Thank you for the well wishes. I hope you have a good weekend too.

          1. Conjecture, illogical conclusion, whatever PJ, conjectured, contrived and fact-free conclusions about my personality as an opening gambit to another super-sized, industrial strength word salad says you simply cannot avoid personal character attacks as you did at 4:53 pm, above.

            And did you just skip the separate sentence at my 6:03 PM where I stated I didn’t think any problem was mutually exclusive of other problems, or did you decide to just ignore it? Cite where I stated that the oligarchy or big money was no longer a problem or where I said any particular problem was the exclusive problem about anything. Just make shit up and ramble on, hey no big deal, right PJ.

            Feinstein wants to narrow the definition of a who a, “real journalist,” is. So you throw any discussion of a powerful FAUX D Senator out the window and go off on your little tirade over Pierce, what you perceive his failures are, yadda, yadda, yet you never mention Feinstein’s angle, the subject and object of Pierce’s article, which relates to your diary, even once.

            Your diary is about money in politics needing to be followed to the source, to see who is influencing things politically. IIRC, Feinstein’s husband is brokering the sales of all US Postal Service surplus and/or shuttered properties. Her wish to be narrowing the definition of a journalist, in effect then, widening the definition of a legally prosecutable government watchdog (whistle-blower), would theoretically make it more difficult to shine a light on certain government/private sector activities, therefore sunblock. No potential conflict of interest there either, right?

            1. Well, well, well. Your latest effort at attempting to dissemble by projecting onto me your own parroting suggests you haven’t any intention to curb your trollish propagandism. That’s a pity. I had hoped you were genuinely interested in moving toward actual discourse rather than the sphere of simple contrarian. Yes, you are contrarian. That’s not an attack. It is indicative of your commentary. Your intense level of contrariness creates environment and atmosphere right here on this blog. That I noted your intense competitiveness wasn’t an attack. I pity it. It makes me sad. If you’re going to pretend that the character of your commentary is neutral more power to you. You’ve got an uphill climb. The impact of your commentary has been corrosive. I hope you try to alter that impact. No, I won’t be refraining from exposing the character of your commentary because it matters. Don’t confuse it with Ad Hominem. And don’t confuse genuine sympathy with an attack.

              As to facts – you’d do well to pay them more heed. The demonstrable fact is still revealed by the contours of your brand of Conservative-Libertarian discourse – you’re redefining, reframing and casting inaccurately at every turn. That’s not debate and it is dishonest.

              The more important point isn’t your apparent misunderstanding of non-sequitur or the inapplicability of fact or fact free to conjecture. The important point is your continual oversimplification and truncation via reframing and redefining – which functions only for obscurantism. You create straw men out of the articles posted and you continually shift your fundamentals – what you claim to be of importance. That’s not discourse; it’s propagandist method, and it is dishonest.

              I didn’t skip over your sentence regarding mutually exclusive – I addressed it in my second paragraph. We simply disagree upon what is the more important. I do accept your shifting points at face value. However, you are attempting to move the goalposts. Shifting isn’t widening. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. I recommend you channel your efforts and try not to hide behind “diffuse.” Reframing isn’t demonstrative of diffuse. It is demonstrative of inability to engage empirically. If you can’t engage the articles and you can only reframe then you aren’t critiquing. Sorry, but that’s just the way it is. And I’m not going to chase your every shift. When you settle on one thesis and you expand it cohesively, I’ll address your point(s).

              You diid well to start filling in and fleshing out one of your points; one of your concerns with Feinstein gets closer to the matters at hand. You might actually have the makings of a cogent thesis there if you finally settle upon a conclusive “point” (points aren’t diffuse remember, hence why they’re called points). But at this juncture you haven’t crafted that “point” to justify what you claim your criticism is of this post. If you are genuinely attempting discourse and not propagandism or adversity for adversity’s sake, my suggestion is you use concision wisely to refocus what you are attempting to argue and be honest about what the Sunlight Foundation and their embedded articles argue – don’t try to create straw men. Discipline your argument with discernment and take the time to study the articles I posted to assist you in framing (not reframing). When you do perhaps we’ll have common ground for discussion. When you do you’ll be taken seriously. Until then you make my “point” for me by adopting the very framework of Conservative-Libertarian thought.

              I recommend you attend to the substance and structure of your argument lest your commentary descend into your previous corrosive depths. You’re dipping fast. Maybe try emulating me in a different manner than what you have thus far.

              Or do none of these and accept my acknowledgement that I didn’t miss your shifting points. I just don’t concur with the importance you’ve assigned them.

              1. Thanks for straightening me out and letting me know what I am thinking and how to behave to your satisfaction. I’ll get right on it.

                1. I recognize your facetiousness, yet I do hope you get right on it, NQ. You do create an ugly atmosphere because your commentary isn’t critique; it’s propagandist. As crucial, you continue to treat discussion as competition. As long as you do your commentary will remain contrarian and knee-jerk reactionary. Contrarian isn’t conducive for quality critique. Contrarian is inhibitive to critique and it is inhibitive to critical thinking.

                  Do get right on it, NQ. Remove yourself from facetious to reflective. Tout suite. The sooner the better.

  3. Do you live in Wisconsin, Windmill, home of multiple recalls, street protests and capitol singers? How’s that foot soldier work helping you? When you face the pressure of raising tens of millions of dollars for elections and combating hundreds of millions of dollars worth of criticism, plus keeping conspiracies and ill will out of the Pentagon, the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, or the Secret Service, I’d bet you wouldn’t stray too far from status quo or “expert” recommendations either. So cut the “Obomber” sh*t.

    1. Threats now? How so very civil of you.

      Willing head-nodding gatekeepers in the ranks of local D parties are extremely effective at stopping party self-examination and constructive criticism by small “d,” democrats. It is something the big money could not do very easily without those people being duped so badly by their own leadership through blind brand name party loyalty.

      When you are the one secretly spying on your own citizens, when you are secretly planning more destructive to labor and US sovereignty, new fast tracked foreign trade agreements, when you supply weapons to terrorists in Syria to incite instability as an excuse to militarily intercede in another country, when you sell out health care to insurance profiteers with no guarantee of health care being provided, you might be bringing some well deserved, ill will upon yourself. DO YOU THINK?

      Expert, “An ex is a has been and a spurt is a drip under pressure.” No I’d have enough sense to start listening to advice from other sources. Oh the poor Pentagon and NSA (insert really tiny violins). Give me a publicly know budget of $82B annually and I think I could help make US citizens more secure in a number of ways. Give me a bit of quantitative easing at $85B a month and I could do even more other than making Wall St happy.

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