Saturday, March 23, 2013

Would-be kingmaker makes ass of self

The tales are as old as time, the stories are there every election cycle and every year in between as well. There are always powerful and wealthy people pulling strings, trying to bend the political system to their will. And according to many others, they do so quite effectively. Recent examples include the "notorious" Koch brothers, George Soros, Rush Limbaugh, Warren Buffet, Rupert Murdoch, and Ron Perelman, to say nothing of various principles at companies like Goldman Sachs.

It's tough to really prove the arguments, though, that elections are easily manipulated by powerful people with a lot of money. After all, Romney did lose the last one and there's little question that he had access to such people, that they were on his "side." As I noted prior to Election Day, Goldman Sachs monies were all over Romney, but Obama still won:
Which brings us to the current Election. Goldman Sachs' level of access in the Obama Administration is well-documented. So what's with the reversal of fortune for the Obama Campaign? After receiving over $1 million in GSM during 2008, the campaign has now received less in 2012 than McCain did in 2008. Meanwhile, Romney is apparently receiving all of the support that was once Obama's.
But that's Presidential politics; there are a lot of States and a lot of other players to contend with, so it's no easy thing to manipulate the system. At the State and local levels, things are very different, there's often less attention, and there's just more bang for the buck, when it comes to funding campaigns.

And in this regard, the real point of control is often in the primaries, especially when those primaries concern an office in a district or State that is viewed as a stronghold or an easy win for one party or the other. Consider the primary contest in 2010 for the Senate seat up for grabs in Florida. Everyone knew early on that there were no serious contenders on the side of the Democrats; it was all about the Republican primary between Crist and Rubio. And therein lies the tale to tell.

I would argue that Rubio topped Crist in that race largely because Crist made too many mistakes and because Rubio proved to be a far more formidable foe than most expected. But it is also true that big money and active support came to Florida from various people we might call the "conservative (or Republican) elites." This included Mitt Romney and--most notably--folks linked to the Heritage Foundation. The question: was the support of these people a consequence of who Rubio was, of his ideas and ideology, or did it come unattached as a means of taking control of Rubio, of "buying" him as it were.

Again, it seems to me that it was very much the former. Regardless, Rubio has proven I think that he is in no one's pocket since his election to the Senate. Meanwhile, Crist has rebranded himself a Democrat--after years of being something of a political hobo--and now plans to run again for the governorship of Florida as a Democrat.

But sometimes, it's very, very clear when someone with deep pockets is trying to control things, to either insure that the "right" candidate wins or that the "wrong" candidate doesn't.

The Keystone pipeline remains a contentious issue; despite all of the evidence indicating that it's a good idea, despite all of the costly analysis proving the construction would not be "environmentally disastrous" or the like, there are hard-core environmentalists types still actively opposing it. And where is their current battleground? Why in Massachusetts, of course...

When Senator Kerry resigned from his Senate seat to become Secretary of State, that action triggered a special election in Massachusetts for the seat. Currently, Mo Cowan is serving as interim Senator, but he has declined to run for the seat in the special election. The two Democrats left in the running for the April 30th primary are U.S. Representatives Ed Markey and Stephen Lynch. Polling date indicates that either one will basically enjoy something of a walkover in the actual election, regardless of who the Republican candidate is.

It's become a contentious race, as Lynch--a former iron workers union president--has seen a loss of some union support. The AFL-CIO has declined to endorse either candidate.

Enter billionaire and big-time Democratic Party donor/bundler Tom Steyer, an avowed "clean energy" activist, former hedge fund manager, Goldman Sachs alumnus, and California resident. Steyer has more or less openly attempted to blackmail Lynch into withdrawing his support for the Keystone pipeline (Markey is opposed to it), telling Lynch that failure to do so would result in Steyer involving himself in the race by spending millions to oppose Lynch's candidacy.

Steyer actually gave Lynch until "high noon" on this past Friday to change his position. Unsurprisingly, Lynch declined to change his position:
While most people in Massachusetts are worried about whether they can pay their rent or their student loans next month, out-of-state billionaires like Steyer spend tens of millions — more than most working people will earn in their entire lifetime — telling them how to vote. I think most Americans are tired of being shoved.

If we want to move government forward in the best interest of America, we cannot let our people be shoved around by either side. At high noon on Friday, I will stand my ground on behalf of the working men and women whose jobs Tom Steyer so carelessly denigrated in his ultimatum. Billionaires won’t shove me around. Much like Gary Cooper and the American people, I’m tired of being shoved.
I say "unsurprisingly" not because I think highly of Lynch's character--I don't know that much about him--but because he really had no other choice, politically speaking. Caving in to such an outrageous demand would be far more damaging to his political career than Steyer's financing of his opposition. And in that same light, Lynch's opponent--Markey--has also lashed out against Steyer:
"As I stated when I first learned about Tom Steyer's demands on Monday, these kinds of tactics have no place in our political discourse and should be repudiated," said Markey in a statement. "Mr. Steyer should immediately withdraw his threats and ultimatum, and stay out of this Senate race. This campaign should be about the people of this state, and I remain committed to giving Massachusetts voters a debate about the issues they care about most."
So Steyer seems to be persona non grata in Massachusetts politics. And this would also seem to be an entirely predictable result. No doubt if his initial target had been a conservative/Republican, the response from Massachusetts Democrats would have been very different. But it wasn't. Steyer targeted a pro-union, entrenched politician and now looks very much like a fool, like a filthy rich would-be kingmaker whose only options now--after behaving like a jackass--are to continue on the same path or admit to being a jackass. Wonder which he'll choose...

Cheers, all.