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Campaign Consultants And Media Companies Are Cashing In On Our Corrupt Elections

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Campaign Consultants And Media Companies Are Cashing In On Our Corrupt Elections

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Supporters of Dr. Ben Carson congregate near Dr. Carson's book tour bus after a book signing in Ames, Iowa.

Four days before Ben Carson finally wrapped up his failed candidacy, his campaign paid $348,141 to a direct mail company. The same amount was paid at the start of the month to Pennsylvania-based Action Mailers, bringing the company’s February total close to $1 million.

That same day, a web service provider for Carson’s campaign (run by the candidate’s chief marketing officer) was paid $59,000. In February, as the campaign limped to an end, checks totaling $651,000 were sent to Eleventy for web services.

Carson, in an interview with CNN after he announced that he would be dropping out of the race, said “We had people who didn’t really seem to understand finances, or maybe they did—maybe they were doing it on purpose.”

In total, through the end of February, Carson’s campaign raised $63 million and spent $58 million, according to FEC filings.

Much of that money came from small individual donations, and much of it was spent on a handful of companies tasked with raising money from those individual donors. There are many links between companies paid money by his campaign and the individuals who surrounded Carson.

Eleventy, whose president, Ken Dawson, was the campaign’s marketing chief, received close to $6 million over the course of the campaign. Action Mailers received over $5 million. Carson spent just over $5 million on television buys, less even than Donald Trump, whose “free media” campaign has kept his ad expenses incredibly low. Just as important, Carson spent little on developing a ground game.

“There’s a lot of people who love me, they just won’t vote for me,” Carson said as he bowed out. Hundreds of thousands loved him enough to give money to what they thought was an actual campaign.

The rise of super PACs in the aftermath of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision has often dominated the discussion over money in politics in recent election cycles. There is much more to the tale. It’s not just about who is spending the cash, but where it’s going.

Harpers Magazine, in its April cover story, delves into the world of “strategists, pollsters, TV-ad makers, media buyers, direct-mail specialists, broadcasters, and other subcategories of what we should properly call the election-industrial complex.” Its conclusion leaves the reader feeling, if only for a moment, somewhat sorry for the billionaires and multi-millionaires pumping money into elections. It’s all wasted extremely efficiently, mostly on advertising buys.

Exhibit A: Jeb Bush, whose campaign and supportive PACs spent close to $150 million on his failed candidacy, with nothing to show for it but… well, actually, there’s just nothing to show for it.

The big winners are consultants and television companies.

Les Moonves, chairman of CBS, made it clear, twice, that what may be bad for America is very good for his company. “Super PACs may be bad for America,” Moonves said following the 2012 election, “but they’re very good for CBS.” That year, CBS made $180 million out of the election.

This election cycle, not only are broadcasters pulling in cash from advertising, they also have Donald Trump to thank for an unprecedented ratings spike.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” Moonves told a media conference in San Francisco in December. “Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? … The money’s rolling in and this is fun,” Moonves said.

“I’ve never seen anything like this, and this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

Photo: Supporters of Dr. Ben Carson congregate near Dr. Carson’s book tour bus after a book signing in Ames, Iowa.

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5 Comments

  1. Dominick Vila March 24, 2016

    This is the ugly face of capitalism, and an electioneering process driven by money rather than substance. Gone are the days when candidates stood outside a caboose talking to a handful of people at every train stop, or crossed the country on a bus with a few reporters trying to connect with the common man. These are the days of showmanship and gimmicks, and nobody does it better than The Donald.

    Reply
    1. Felicia Saylor March 24, 2016

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      1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 24, 2016

        WHO CARES ABOUT THIS VAPID MESSAGE???

  2. RED March 24, 2016

    This is the system we have created. A system that values nothing above money, NOTHING! Not decency, not morality, not the habitability of our planet, not the poisoning of people in Flint, certainly not the poisoning of people around the world. Ahh, American Exceptionalism. I suppose when you value nothing beyond your own selfish greed then it becomes pretty easy, right? Clearly those people and countries saddled with morality and decency and concern for others can’t compete against the American way of burning everything and everyone to the ground if it makes next quarter’s earnings per share go up! And if it makes money then we will happily imprison more people than anyone else here in the “Land of the Free.” It’s fascinating how we listen to people rage against Castro and Cuba, and it makes me wonder did Castro poison the water of children to save a dollar? Do they murder 12 year olds in the park in Cuba? Do they tell 29 million people that their lives don’t count enough for them to have access to healthcare? Do they have the largest prison population in the world? If the answer to all these questions is yes, then it really is a terrible country.

    Reply
  3. Aaron_of_Portsmouth March 24, 2016

    As mentioned before in this forum, the Electoral System has evolved from a great original concept and a break from more despotic predecessors, to something quite monstrous since the 19th Century. Democracy has become a tool for imposing the Will of a fortunate few on that of the majority, with many of the latter not knowing how they’re being used(nor do they seem to care).

    The Electoral System by and large now serves as a means of subverting what a true democracy should be and looks the other way when “Dark Money” and negative campaign ads are used to influence election outcomes. We are so lazy as to allow for messages and bluster to influence how we vote, rather than use rational thought and insight to make selections—the latter requires a little extra energy but many are too lazy to get up from “the couches of mental lethargy”..

    The change in direction, it would seem, is fueled by greed, a lust for power, and a need to maintain a status quo that seeks to “divide and conquer”—an age-old strategy that has proven beneficial for those who seek to exert and maintain their influence at the expense of others.

    These selfish urges are aided and abetted by the degeneration of the status quo Religions in the world as well as in America. America has been hit particularly hard as a result of the sapping of Religion’s potential for edifying the hearts of their respective followers. We are so clever(so we think) that we have taken an aspect of democracy and crafted a tool with which to further increase the wealth of those who are already awash in money. Yet, the “hoi polloi” are unaware that they’re being used as cannon-fodder and are just pliable objects in the hands of the powerful.

    Baha’u’llah in addressing the leaders of the world in one of His Tablets stated that power has been seized from two classes of people: The Kings and Rulers, and the Ecclesiastics. The former group refers to “secular” leaders, while the latter refers to the institution of the Clergy.

    But a New System has been offered for humanity as a replacement—It is referred to
    as “The Baha’i Administrative Order”.

    Nothing in the universe is immune to the changes and chances of an evolving physical environment. Either contingent beings and systems must change and adapt appropriately, or decay, rot, and succumb. This applies to the spiritual realm as well. In the case of the latter, Jesus remarked with a Wisdom and Prescience when He
    used an analogy of “New Wine and Old Wineskin” (Mark 2:22 I believe).

    If we reflect a moment on this important statement, we will begin to see that He wasn’t giving advice on wine-making, but using a useful metaphor to explain the necessity for, and reality of, “Progressive Revelation” and of the necessary and vital imperative for change. “Conservative” forces throughout history have been terrified of change and therefore always tended to resent any call for change—just refer to Moses when confronting Pharoah; Jesus confronting the Pharisees; the negative response that Buddha received in India; Muhammad’s rebuff by the Meccans and other leaders in the Hijaz region; and later Baha’u’llah when He appeared in Iran and called for change in Iran and indeed the entire world.

    But we have become comfortable and content with the “Old Wine” of outdated ways of behaving and of governance and are therefore suffering the consequences. The jihadists in Belgium, Paris, Syria, Iraq, etc. are equally pleased with imbibing an “Old Wine” and tend to be more murderous. But in the West, we “kill” in more subtle and insidious ways. Just ask, for example, residents of Flint, or those who had to deal with “Jim Crow” of the past, and who suffer daily in the present from the aftermath of “Jim Crow”; ask those who have to suffer the inconvenience of inadequate heath-care or of the vast chasm that divides the wealthy from the impoverished in America.

    Just my point of view. (THIS VIEW IS NOT PAID FOR BY ANYONE).

    Reply

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