Frank Rich at NYMag has a nice comprehensive terrifying roundup of “the old, white, rich men who are buying this election“:
If you want to appreciate what Barack Obama is up against in 2012, forget about the front man who is his nominal opponent and look instead at the Republican billionaires buying the ammunition for the battles ahead. A representative example is Harold Simmons, an 80-year-old Texan who dumped some $15 million into the campaign before primary season had ended. Reminiscing about 2008, when he bankrolled an ad blitz to tar the Democrats with the former radical Bill Ayers, Simmons told The Wall Street Journal, “If we had run more ads, we could have killed Obama.” It is not a mistake he intends to make a second time. The $15 million Simmons had spent by late February dwarfs the $2.8 million he allotted to the Ayers takedown and the $3 million he contributed to the Swift Boat Veterans demolition of John Kerry four years before that. Imagine the cash that will flow now that the GOP sideshows are over and the president is firmly in Simmons’s crosshairs.
His use of the verb killed was meant in jest, of course, much as Foster Friess ($1.8 million in known contributions, and counting) was joking when he suggested that “gals” could practice birth control by putting Bayer aspirin between their knees. America’s billionaires are such cards! And we had better get used to their foibles and funny bones. Whatever else happens in 2012, it will go down as the Year of the Sugar Daddy. Inflamed by Obama-hatred, awash in self-pity, and empowered by myriad indulgent court and Federal Election Commission rulings, an outsize posse of superrich white men will spend whatever it takes to have its way with the body politic and, if victorious, with the country itself. Given the advanced age of most of this cohort, 2012 may be seen as the election in which the geezer empire struck back.
Sugar daddies—whom I’ll define here as private donors or their privately held companies writing checks totaling $1 million or more (sometimes much more) in this election cycle—are largely a Republican phenomenon, most of them one degree of separation from Karl Rove and his unofficial partners in erecting a moneyed shadow GOP, David and Charles Koch. At last look, there were 25 known sugar daddies on the right (or more, if you want to count separately the spouses and children who pitch in). You’ve likely heard of Sheldon Adelson, the Vegas tycoon who is Benjamin Netanyahu’s unofficial ambassador to the GOP. But you may be less familiar with Irving Moskowitz, the bingo entrepreneur who funnels his profits into East Jerusalem settlements. Or Robert Mercer, the hedge-fund master of “flash trading” who poured a clandestine $1 million into ads attacking the “ground-zero mosque” and nearly another $3 million into a scale-model railroad in his Long Island mansion. Or Steven Lund, the co-founder of Nu Skin, which became “direct selling” sponsor of the Romney-run 2002 Winter Olympics after having spent much of the nineties settling complaints over false advertising and other unscrupulous practices with the Federal Trade Commission and six different states’ attorneys general…
I know some of you are going to point out that little of this is news to those who’ve been diligently following the progressive blogs (or even the more literate of the right-wing blogs, where they’re vicariously proud of their masters’ “accomplishments”), but it’s useful to have all the links collected in one four-page article next time someone on twitter or the facewall asks why us liberals act like being successful was somehow a bad thing….
It’s no wonder that in substance and even a bit in style, the 2012 election echoes the climactic Gilded Age election of 1896. John D. Rockefeller Sr., Henry Clay Frick, and their peers were panicked by the prospect of a populist president—in the form of William Jennings Bryan, the Democrat—and rallied around William McKinley, the Republican long cited as a hero by Karl Rove. McKinley’s campaign manager was the hard-driving Mark Hanna, a millionaire businessman who formulated a lasting maxim: “There are two things that matter in politics. The first is money and I
can’t remember what the second one is.” Such was his fund-raising prowess that the GOP outspent the Democrats by a margin of 23 to 1 (an estimated $7 million to $300,000). McKinley won with 51 percent of the popular vote, though his assassination at the start of his second term in 1901 would set the stage for the ascent of his vice-president, Teddy Roosevelt, and the Progressive movement. Many of the reforms that Roosevelt would champion—estate and income taxes, more federal regulation of business and the workplace, fair play in labor disputes, protection of the public from contaminated food and drugs—are nearly identical to those opposed by the social-Darwinist sugar daddies of today.
It was also in the years surrounding the 1896 election that legislators in the South, eager to undo Reconstruction, started suppressing the black vote (and that of poor whites too) by erecting barriers like poll taxes and literacy tests. Another version of that scam is also playing out in 2012. Under the pretext of nonexistent “voter fraud,” seventeen states have passed restrictive legislation to deter voting by those at the lower end of the economic scale: minorities, immigrants, the elderly, and students. These copycat bills have largely been modeled on a template endorsed by the American Legislative Exchange Council—the same organization that pushed for “stand your ground” laws. Among this group’s backers, needless to say, are the Kochs…
Much more, including a list of the Top 25
Malefactors of Great Wealth Sugar Daddies, at the link.