Campaign Cash: Biggest Loser Corporate Edition—Spending $2 Million on a Losing Race in Iowa

Corporate America is on the attack in every state. As Joshua Holland explains for AlterNet, outside groups have spent somewhere between $750,000 and more than $2 million in an attempt to unseat Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) in a state where ad buys come cheap. But Braley is almost certain to win anyway, even if his lead isn’t quite as comfortable as it was in 2008, when he took 64 percent of the vote. This is what corporations and wealthy elites are willing to pony up in races they’re sure to lose.

Most of that money comes from two groups: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a front-group for some of the nation’s largest corporations, and America’s Future Fund, a right-wing front-group founded by GOP lobbyist and ethanol executive Nick Ryan. Public News Service’s Eric Mackhighlights the races in Hawkeye state that are unusually flush with cash.

Thanks to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission earlier this year, corporations and wealthy elites now have license to spend unlimited sums to promote candidates they like (or attack ones they don’t). Things are already getting out of hand. Outside groups are dumping millions of dollars into obscure races this year—even in places where they appear to have almost no chance of victory.

Republican candidates are raking it in

Thanks to Citizens United, much of the spending in midterm elections is secret. We’ll never know who is spending millions of dollars on anonymous attack ads. But a tiny fraction of the electoral purchases by outside groups have been disclosed, and if those are any guide, the Republican Party is reaping the vast majority of the rewards. As Jesse Zwick details for The Washington Independent, of the roughly $12 million in public corporate expenditures, they’re spending more than $9.7 million on behalf of Republican candidates.

The Chamber of Commerce’s long history in elections


Though big spending on campaigns is new for many political action committees, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been playing fast and loose with election law for years. As Harry Hanbury explains for GRITtv, the only reason the Chamber’s top brass aren’t behind bars right now may be due to deliberate cover provided by the Federal Elections Commission—its six members consist of three Republicans and three Democrats. Without four votes, the FEC can’t to do anything to curb the Camber’s activities. With the panel’s three Republicans ideologically opposed to the very idea of campaign finance regulation, serious action from the FEC is nearly impossible.

When the FEC’s own top lawyers found that a complaint against the Chamber reveals a gross violation of law, the partisans on the FEC board refused to take action. In 2004, when Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington took aim at $3 million in political spending that the Chamber deployed to re-elect President George W. Bush, the FEC did nothing because of the partisan deadlock.

Citizens United helps those at the top

As David Brodwin explains for American Forum, the Citizens United decision doesn’t benefit businesses or corporations in general—it benefits the biggest, wealthiest corporations. When the Supreme Court freed corporations to spend unlimited amounts on political efforts, that freedom doesn’t help companies with constrained resources. In other words, Citizens United is a structural force that will permanently and inevitably reinforce the status quo. As the Wall Street crash, the BP oil disaster, the mining malfunctions in West Virginia and countless other recent corporate shortcuts have shown, the status quo is not acceptable.

“The money that will flood the political system will not represent the views of companies in green America” Brodwin writes. “Instead, the money that will flood the system will come from organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is expected to spend more than $200 million this year on lobbying and direct campaign expenditures. This organization and others like it represent companies that don’t value responsible business. Is this the kind of business thinking that we want to dominate our political discourse?”

But wait, there’s more!

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the mid-term elections and campaign financing by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

by Rachelle ? via flickr/creative Commons
by ZachCarter, Media Consortium Blogger


Kay L.
KayL NOFORWARDS7 years ago

As long as money exists, people with it are going to try to buy whatever they want, whether goods or political influence....

Marianna B M.

money wrongly spent

Mary L.
Mary L7 years ago

Lyn L you're absolutely right, however, Corazine got into office first. That's how the people of New Jersey knew what he was.

Casey Loufek
Casey Loufek7 years ago

I think I interpreted the poll wrong... Are we trying to remove the influence of money or just get some for ourselves out of this? I mean if the companies are spending that much and still loosing maybe we should just look at this as good for the economy. Sure the fact that attack ads now constitute most of television programming is annoying but I hardly watch it. Maybe we should have elections all the time, it will create a lot of new jobs funded by these bloated corporations.

Forgive my flippancy but I feel the arguments over campaign funding are pretty much moot. Democracy simply does not work. The argument that money corrupts democracy is dependent on the argument that people can be better manipulated by reputation and grandstanding than persuasive argument. Sadly scientific studies support this and this point alone pretty much undermines the validity of the system before money even enters the picture. While rule by the majority may seem nice in theory, particularly to those with Western conditioning, in practice it makes little sense.

The majority are by no means likely to factually correct the majority of the time. It was democracy that allowed Hitler to come to power and it was majority opinion that lead to the concentration camps. Call me an elitist if you like but I don't buy the argument that the ignorant masses have some right to tell me what to do simply because there are a lot of them then I buy some noble having that right because of bloodline.

PJ Granieri
.7 years ago

I can't wait for Jerry Brown to win California when Meg Whitman spent 240 million of her own money to buy the office. Oh I will be jumping up an down. When people think they can buy something so worthy as office of power Money is the root of all evil an I will be so happy to see her loose...

Ana G.
.7 years ago

Me, too. Let the corporations eat that loss.

If people would just vote with reason, use your mind. Think before you vote.

Olivia Schlosser
Past Member 7 years ago

I hope all that money was spent in vain.

John Williams
John Williams7 years ago

America did see this coming and laws were passed to help prevent it. The Roberts appointment should have been filibustered ----but the Dems decided to play nice or caved in (take your pick). Now we are stuck with Roberts and his ilk controlling the court.

lyn L.
l L7 years ago

I read that the tea party is interfering with voters at colleges in S.C stuff going on in Texas, MN and arizona. Now these young people go to war and suffer the consequences for this country and let them vote and get out of their way. I challenge all of america to make sure everyone votes without intimidation from the tea party. I am sick of them, period. Send in the military to protect us from the tea party at polling places.

lyn L.
l L7 years ago

Something to think about. Jon Corzine is a rich man; ex- giov of newjersey. He lost his last election even tho he had alot of money. Money plus truth can pay off. Money and lying doesn't pay off. Money and lying and bullying may back fire cause people fight back. fire with fire and the best fire wins. So yes the reps have money but don't let what you think you see take away your faith. The vote is with the people. The people who the teas and repubs have no respect for and would not help for 20 months.