Obama: Do As I Say, Not As I do
By David H. Landon
With one week to go before the midterm elections, the nation’s airwaves are being saturated with millions of dollars worth of political ads from both parties. There’s really nothing unusual or new about that. However, in addition to these seemingly non-stop ads being run by congressional candidates, there are literally millions of dollars flooding the airwaves by outside spending groups with no direct ties to the congressional candidates or either political party. And under existing rules, some of these benign sounding groups, like the Patriot Majority (a labor group) and American Crossroads GPS (Karl Rove’s organization), were able to accept contributions from donors and not disclose those donors. There are both conservative and liberal groups taking advantage of these permissive rules.
In one of the more disingenuous moments of this campaign season, President Barack Obama began complaining about these “shadowy” outside spending groups which are undermining the very core of our democracy. It’s obvious that he doesn’t want to talk about the unprecedented failure of his stimulus spending. Nor does he care to discuss the looming increased premium costs of private insurance due to Obamacare. Certainly the trillion dollar deficits that we are facing for the next 10 years are not a likely campaign topic. So, without a record of achievement to campaign on, Obama is stuck with creating a straw dog to attack in order to divert voter attention. After months of testing the water with blaming George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, and the Speaker-of-the-House-in-waiting John Boehner, the brain trust at the White House has seized upon the corruptive nature of these outside spending groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the Democratic Party’s message for these midterm elections. To paraphrase CBS Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer: Mr. President, is that all you’ve got?
That’s right, the guy who promised to “change Washington” completely, only to reverse his promise, during the presidential campaign, to abide by the limits of public financing, is concerned about the harmful influence of money on the political process. The man whose campaign raised and spent a record amount of almost $1 billion during his bid for the White House is concerned that suddenly conservatives are able to match his campaign cash cows dollar for dollar. The same candidate for whom an additional $400 million was spent by outside groups on his behalf, most of which weren’t required to disclose their donors, is sounding the alarm about the evils of the “stampede” of undisclosed donors in this year’s election. Can you say “hypocrite?”
Now we discover that it’s the unions which are the largest outside spenders in this election, not the Chamber or the groups tied to Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, it was revealed that a government workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, (AFSCME) is “now the biggest outside spender” on the 2010 cycle: “The 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account.” They are desperate to help their benefactors, the Democratic Party, hold onto Congress. Looking at the top outside spenders on candidates running in the midterms, the National Education Association (the teachers union) and the Service Employees International Union (second largest after AFSCME in terms of public employees) have spent a combined total with AFSCME of $171.5 million. While the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s American Crossroads will spend a projected total of $140 million, clearly the liberal outside groups are still setting the bar when it comes to raising campaign dollars.
One might wonder why AFSCME is so interested in this midterm election. Since the beginning of the recession, because of the Obama’s Keynesian approach to solving our financial crisis, the only job creation in the U.S. has been in the federal government. After trillions in government spending to increase the size and scope of government, AFSCME’s membership has grown 25 percent in the past decade with much of that occurring in the past 22 months. They are determined to protect their turf, and the union dues that those government jobs produce. How do they protect those jobs in a national climate of budget shortfalls? They do so by spending those union dues on the election of Democrat congressional candidates who, in owing AFSCME their jobs, would find it impossible to make the difficult spending cuts and job elimination decisions that are coming soon to all governments. Big Labor’s record spending has undermined the President’s strategy of attacking the “stampede” of outside spending by “shadowy” interest groups. To quote Walt Kelly of Pogo fame, “We have met the enemy and he is us!”
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens United case said for the first time that corporations and unions have the same right of free speech under the First Amendment as individuals do, and that limiting their political spending is therefore unconstitutional. Nothing in the court decision prohibits rules requiring public disclosure of who is giving money and how much. The court, in fact, supported disclosure, saying it would help voters evaluate the arguments made in independent political ads. It is up to Congress, however, to require disclosure. The Democratic-controlled Congress didn’t show the interest to accomplish that for this election cycle.
Ultimately this election cycle boils down to a referendum on what we want America to be. Will we be a nation of more and more government control where the individual is dependent upon government for his or her existence? Or will we remain a country in which we value individual freedom? We are in a heroic battle to determine which path our country will take. Next Tuesday’s election will give us the first clue.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org