Tea Party Vows to Block Campaign Finance Reform

Welcome to the final edition of Campaign Cash, which tracked political spending during this year’s midterm elections. Stay tuned for more reporting on money in politics from members of The Media Consortium. To see more stories on campaign funding, follow the Twitter hashtag #campaigncash.

Anonymous millionaires just helped elect dozens of ultraconservative congressional candidates, by pumping millions of dollars into national Tea Party organizations. And guess what’s at the top of the legislative to-do list for those same Tea Party groups? Blocking campaign finance reform legislation.

As Stephanie Mencimer explains for Mother Jones, one of the nation’s largest Tea Party organizations, the Tea Party Patriots, is already coming out guns-a-blazing against any lame duck effort to crack down on secret corporate spending in elections.

And with good cause. The Tea Party’s appeal, after all, is based on its populist, grassroots image. If anybody knew that secret right-wing millionaires were bankrolling the entire operation, the “movement” would lose its luster.

But whether reformers are able to force front-groups to disclose their donors or not, the broader effort to eliminate undue corporate influence from the political process will take years.

Welcome to the plutocracy

The Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission allowed corporations and deep-pocketed elites to spend unlimited amounts electing politicians of their choosing. So long as those expenditures are funneled through a front-group, nobody has to know who is buying an ugly attack ad or why. Instead ads are sponsored by groups with a innocuous-sounding names like “Americans for Prosperity” or  “Americans for Job Security.” Nobody knows who ultimately foots the bill.

In organized crime, this process is called “money laundering.” And everyone is getting in on the game, from the Tea Party to Karl Rove to U.S. Chamber of Commerce. As Bill Moyers explains in this Boston University lecture carried by Truthout, it’s ravaging American democracy.

Rove, other conservative groups and the Chamber of Commerce have in fact created a “shadow party” … We have reached what … former Labor Secretary Robert Reich calls “the perfect storm that threatens American democracy: An unprecedented concentration of income and wealth at the top; a record amount of secret money flooding our democracy; and a public becoming increasingly angry and cynical about a government that’s raising its taxes, reducing its services, and unable to get it back to work. We’re losing our democracy to a different system. It’s called plutocracy.”

That, ultimately, is what is at stake with campaign finance reform. Can democracy continue to serve as a check on elite power? Or will America simply dance to the tune played by the super-rich. Citizens United made an undemocratic mess of this year’s election — but the influence of corporate cash is not going to simply melt away. Without serious reforms, the very concept of American elections will become a quaint, naive relic of the past.

Wall Street wins big

And while the plutocracy plainly organized itself against Democrats in this election, democrats have not exactly been strangers to corporate largesse. As Laura Flanders emphasizes for GRITtv, while President Barack Obama occasionally offered rhetorical rebukes against the Wall Street establishment, so far as public policy was concerned, he rarely did anything to ruffle their feathers. Obama continued the Bush bailouts, praised the executives of firms would eventually be investigated for fraud as “savvy,” and aimed pretty low on financial reform. But as Flanders notes, all those favors didn’t end up helping either Obama or his party on Nov. 2:

Having soaked up the government’s largesse, those banksters repaid Obama by pouring millions of anonymous dollars into defeating Democrats.

It worked. The most vocal Wall Street critics in the House and Senate — Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) were bombarded with attack ads courtesy of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Now they’re gone, along with the Democratic majority in the House.

Last-ditch effort on campaign finance reform

As Jesse Zwick emphasizes for The Washington Independent, Congress can still limit the damage in the coming months before the officials elected last night take office. A modest law that would require corporations to disclose their political expenditures and force front-groups to publicly identify their donors would help limit the damage.

After that, as Moyers emphasizes, it’s a long, hard fight.

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. 

photo credit: thanks to tao_zhyn via flickr
by Zach Carter, Media Consortium blogger


Olivia Schlosser
Past Member 7 years ago

The want to keep the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Frank B.
Frank Bartlo7 years ago

Everyone with brain one KNOWS the "tea party" is about as "grassroots" as Exxon/Mobil. But not so many people HAVE brain one....

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman7 years ago

Thanx for article.

Hope S.
Hope Sellers7 years ago

Susan S: "Of course the Dems are for the Finance Reform. It is written to favor them. They exempted Unions and organizations like the Sierra Club, which typically donate to Dems, but want those who support the Repubs exposed. Talk about one sided and unfair. Just more deception from the Dems."

The difference between Unions and Wall Street, etc. should be obvious to you. Unions represent the workers centering on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership and on representing their members if management attempts to violate contract provisions. Wall Street, etc. represent their bottom line; not the people.

Regarding The Sierra Club From Wikipedia:

The Sierra Club's mission is:

"To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth's ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives." This is not a money making endeavor but one that works to protect our's and future generations environment.

You sound like you are either wealthy, or hope to
be in the top 10%, or running for office in the Republican Party. In any case you have no idea of what is really happening to this country or compassion for those who are losing everything because of the greed of the top moneymen.

Terry M.
Terry M.7 years ago

This is a website I have already begun to write about to national and local media outlets. Something must be done about corruption in our elections and government at all levels and We, the People must stand up now and demand it. Please copy and paste the following link to a Facebook page regarding a Independence March on Washington, DC planned on and around July 4, 2012. We must DEMAND our political process be independent from corporate influence:


Ronald Ellsworth
Ronald E7 years ago

As a Green Partier I agree totally with Wm. Grogan. What the Green Party and other small parties need to do is put up a united front at major election time and back the major party candidates that best represent their points of view, instead of running against them and wasting their votes.

Marti Williams
Marti Williams7 years ago

They're crazy...

Lynnette Bower
Lynnette Bower7 years ago

Limit the amount of money that can be spent on a campaign. Inform the public. Two things that will never happen.

Patricia M.
Patricia Maddock7 years ago

The only reason they want to stop campaign finance reform is so the general public is not able to find out who is contributing to their campaigns!

Charlene R.
Charlene Rush7 years ago

Let's be honest! The Tea Party Republicans appeal to the racists, who want President Obama OUT. It wouldn't matter what issues they bring forth. Their disciples WANT to believe anything and everything they say.

There is no reasoning with people of this mind-set.

Speaking of repeating gossip for which the Tea Partiers are famous----

Someone told me that Glenn Beck was a cross-dresser in private. Can this be true?

Also, I heard that Rush Limbaugh is back doing illegal drugs? Could this also be true?

To the cross-dressers out there, please forgive any insensitivity on my part. 'Your business is your business and my business is mine.' Gee, I think that was a song, sung by Maurice Chevalier.