Now this year’s election cycle is over both Democrats and independents will scratch their heads of what went wrong in their campaigns while media outlets will paint their picture of the current political landscape. What is left out of this commentary is the amount of money being poured into the Senate and Congressional races around the country along with the growing problem of voter suppression through a series of restrictive voting laws. The 2014 mid-term elections were the most expensive in US history, thanks to Citizens United which erodes laws limiting the amount of money an entity or individual can give to a candidate. By one account these elections cost up to $40 million dollars. Much of this funding came by way of “dark money” from several shadow Super Pacs and unidentified individuals. At the source of much of this spending are the Koch Brothers who have spent millions of dollars in each state in an attempt to turn the Senate red. The outcome was a Republican surge in states where incumbent Democrats should have won reelection and might have had they not been bombarded by the GOP spending blitzkrieg. So here is a look at just a few states which turned from blue to red in large part because of outside money being flooded into their GOP coffers.
The Koch brothers had spent an estimated $7.5 million dollars on behalf of Republican Bill Cassidy in the form of 4,900 television ads which demonized his Democratic competitor Mary Landrieu. Another report has the Koch Brother bringing a little over 6.4 million dollars in direct contributions. A reported $1,398,537 was raised by the GOP while another $5,387,336 went to defeating Democrats at all costs. By contrast the DNC took in $310.093 while outside groups took in $10,227,268 to defeat Republicans. The result is that Louisiana is going into a runoff which will be decided in December. Democrat Mary Landrieu was ahead in voter support in the state’s open primary, 43.1% while Republican Bill Cassidy stands at 41.9%. Since this was an open primary, a second Republican ran in this race as well, Rob Maness took 14.1%. Why is the issue of dark money so important to this race? The answer can be found on Open Secrets Dot Org where they have a list of the top donors in this election. One of the sectors who contributed heavily to both top candidates in this race was the petrol industry. Remember this is the state which was hammered by the worst environmental disaster in US history thanks to the explosion and lack of oversight of a BP oil rig. As of 2013 Landrieu had received $247,600 According to the Atlantic Journal. http://www.nationaljournal.com/daily/to-gop-s-chagrin-energy-companies-pump-money-into-landrieu-s-campaign-20131218 For Cassidy’s top twenty contributors you can check out Open Secret’s list. http://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cycle=2014&cid=N00030245
The NRA also contributed heavily in this race by buying ad time painting Landrieu as being anti-gun rights. They based their accusations on the Democrat’s support for Sonya Sotomayor and support for back ground checks. According to one report the claim was deemed completely false by Politifact. http://cenlamar.com/2014/10/02/sen-landrieu-koch-brothers-have-spent-7-5… Despite the expected runoff, Cassidy has been consistently ahead in the polls when going head to head with Landrieu, between 1 and 8%. The heavy corporate backing of both candidates could explain why this race is still so close. Logic would have suggested in an election where the winds are flying in the face of Barack Obama supporters and where Republicans won big, one could have assumed that this contest would have been settled by now. www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?ind=E01
Another huge loss for Democrats on November 4th was the Senate seat held by Kay Hagan in North Carolina. Republican Thom Tillis claimed victory in what was a surprise outcome. Tillis took 49.0% while Hagan received 47.3% and third party candidate Sean Haugh got 3.7%. Why results of the night were so surprising is that Kay Hagan led in most of the polls leading into the election by at least two percentage points. She also is listed as a top fund raiser by Open Secrets, having taken in $20,616,484. Democrats took in public financing amount of $8,555,034 or 32.3% of funding which ranks at number 17 in terms of Democratic spending nationally. Republicans took in $17,374,006 of state funding or 65.5% which ranks 11th nationally. This does not include the dark money poured into this state by Charles and David Koch. North Carolina was one of the most targeted states by the Koch brothers in the endeavors of taking over the Senate. All six of their so called Super Pacs “Americans for Prosperity”, “The American Energy Alliance”, “Concerned Veterans for America”, “The Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce”, “Generation Opportunity” and the 60 Plus Associates began inundating the local air waves with anti-Hagan ads and her connection to President Barack Obama. In total, there were 8,600 of these commercials, more than 1,700 what they paid for in Louisiana, according to the Washington Post. It also should be noted that North Carolina ranked in the top five of states where these groups focused their mid-term spending which came out to $125 million dollars, with a few of these groups spending more than that. For a full break down of the Koch’s spending you can check out this link. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/09/04/one-out-of-eve… Add in the North Carolina’s voter suppression voter ID laws which mostly affects lower income people of color and many poor white communities. (See next week’s article which will focus on this) The outcome of last Tuesday’s elections saw incumbent Kay Hagan lose her Senate seat by less than 2 points, Tillis 49 to Hagan’s 47.3%.
More than the issue of dark being spent on this state’s elections the story for Georgia was voter suppression. At least 40,000 voter registrations have been reported missing but figures by agencies such as the NAACP put the number much higher. The missing registration scandal has led to the “Georgia Project” and the state’s branch of the NAACP to file a lawsuit against Republican Brian Kemp, the secretary of state. http://www.democracynow.org/2014/11/4/40_000_voters_missing_in_georgia. According to one report half of the 80,000 voter registrations brought in by both groups disappeared. Staci Abrams of the group “The Georgia Project”, while on the television/radio program Democracy Now stated that Kemp refused to meet with her group which led them to file the writ of mandamus in order to force the secretary’s office to hand over the requested information. Unfortunately for them, the judge who oversaw this case denied a hearing to allow discovery. As she put it, “I do want to point out that Judge Brasher did not allow for discovery. He did not allow for an evidentiary hearing. So we were essentially being asked to prove something we suspected without being able to access the information that would give us the proof”. Judge Brasher wrote the petitioner claiming that,“ the Petitioners have failed to come forward with evidence showing that the Secretary of State has failed to carry out this duty, or even that this duty is ripe, since it can only be carried out after the various counties’ election registrars register an eligible voter”. Abrams’ has pointed out that the judge’s decision was a faulty read of the law, stating that Kemp oversees the election process in the state and all its counties rely on his department for all voter information. She also pointed out that the judge’s decision ignores the rights of the voters and that it was the equivalent of saying that of the 6 million voters registered, 40,000 was not a substantial enough number to prove any voter suppression. Those whose information was lost were told to cast a provisional ballot which was essentially like not voting at all. So in short, these voters were not counted in this election cycle while Kemp’s office will be given a reprieve in neglect of duty.
While it’s not the counties who are so much to blame, by using the filtering process of relying on one’s social security information in proving an individual’s citizenship has long been known to create false positives about 40% of the time which leads to the denial of otherwise eligible voters from going to the polls. The victims of these mistakes more than pushes the 40,000 lost voter registrations far higher in terms of individuals who were denied the right to be heard. It’s not known if these votes would have made a difference in this election seeing that Michelle Nunn lost to Perdue by about 7.9 points. 45.1 to 53% but what is evident, is that much of the issues surrounding Georgia’s elections, including the Voter ID laws, reeks of the Jim Crowe days.
This year’s elections were in many ways the right wing experiment of how to use Citizen’s United in buying elections coupled with the targeting of Democratic districts in efforts from keeping minorities from hitting the ballot box. It was a process that failed in 2012 after first being tried to 2008 but this year the Republicans finally saw the fruits of their labor ripen. It didn’t hurt that President Barack Obama’s poll numbers are extremely low and the fact that the Democrats ran away from Obama’s accomplishments including the Affordable Care Act and an improving economy and advancements in science funding missed an opportunity to get the upper hand in controlling the dialogue of this election cycle.
Until next time…