In the last week Democrats were gloating about how little money the Republican Party had in its campaign coffers. TheRepublican National Committee has just over $5 million in the bank for the final stretch of the 2010 midterm election campaign and is carrying over $2 million in debt.
These figures have Democrats jumping for joy, but their excitement is misplaced. The combination of Michael Steele and Citizens United is creating a paradigm shift in how elections are funded among Republicans. Rather than giving to the Republican Party, where Michael Steele controls the money, their name is made public and they are limited by regulation as to how much they can give, major donors have abandoned the RNC and are giving to 527 and 501(c)(4) organizations, which can also take money directly from corporations. This new approach to campaign finance will alter U.S. politics reducing the power of political parties and increasing the power of concentrated corporate wealth.
The best example is the "Shadow RNC" American Crossroads, a Republican 527 and American Crossroads, GPS, a sister 501(c)(4) organization. These organizations are being run by Karl Rove, Ed Gillespie and Michael Duncan. Gillespie was the former chair of the Republican Party and Duncan, also a former RNC Chair, was a challenger to Michael Steele for Chairman of the Party. Duncan had the most votes in the first round but Steele won the contested nomination in six rounds.
Steele's missteps, gaffes and embarrassments have led major donors to American Crossroads which has become known as the "Shadow RNC." Others have described American Crossroads as a coup of the RNC. The former political strategist for President Reagan, Ed Rollins, has described Michael Steele as a "disaster" who "has failed miserably in the things you're supposed to do [as Chair of the RNC] -- raise money and basically go out and articulate the message." Despite that, he concluded: "what he says or does in the next 11 weeks is not going to matter." He described Steele and the RNC as irrelevant.
Indeed, American Crossroads will be doing the functions normally done by the RNC. This includes the nuts and bolts of political campaigns: advertising for and against candidates, polling, opposition research, data base acquisition and management as well as get out the vote efforts. They have even created a party platform which they call the "7 in 11" plan, consisting of blocking and obstructing taxing the rich, preventing stimulus spending, cutting back spending on Medicare and Social Security, preventing implementation of health care reform, aggressive immigration enforcement, and speeding up nuclear, coal, oil and other energy production.
American Crossroads is like the RNC except, unlike political parties where there are limits to the amount of money political parties can take from individuals and are required to report their donors; American Crossroads is not limited on the size of the donations and in many cases do not have to report the names of the donors. American Crossroads can also take money directly from corporations which under Citizens United can spend as much as they want on elections.
The two American Crossroads organizations have raised $17.6 million through mid-August. The initial fundraising of the 527 organization came from just four individual billionaires cited as donating over 97 percent of the 4.7 million total. Their 501(c)(4), American Crossroads GPS, raised $5 million in June, its first month of operation. The source of those funds is not reported and once again, there are no limits to how much an individual can give to a 527 or (c)(4). American Crossroads plans to raise and spend over $52 million to influence the 2010 elections.
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