rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Campaign cash: Harry Reid under siege by Swift Boat billionaire Bob Perry

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Remember that horrible 2004 Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad that helped derail John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid? Well, Bob Perry, the billionaire tycoon who financed that smear campaign is back, and he's underwriting a barrage of dirty ads that target politicians he doesn’t like.

And this time around, the Supreme Court gave Perry cover in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which allows big donors to fund attacks anonymously.

Swift-boating Harry Reid

Eric Mack of the Public News Service profiles Perry in an interview with The Washington Independent’s Jesse Zwick. Perry is diverting the flow of his real estate fortune to right-wing front groups organized by Karl Rove. One of his biggest targets is Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), who is currently deadlocked in a close race with Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle.

Federal regulators cracked down on Perry’s Swift Boat group in 2004 for violating rules about registering and collecting "soft money" donations to fund direct attack ads, but the Citizens United decision renders those rules obsolete. We only know about Perry’s move to finance $7 million in attack ads because he pushed the money through an explicitly political organization. If he’d selected a different type of front-group, we would have never known -- and Perry may be simultaneously funneling funds through other front-groups.

The storefronts of the front groups

An astonishing amount of money is flowing into the 2010 elections without any accountability whatsoever. As Andy Kroll and Siddhartha Mahanta reveal in a video for Mother Jones, much of the money is laundered through shadowy front-groups that don’t have to disclose their donors. Organizations with innocuous names like the 60-Plus Society and Alliance for America’s Future are funding multi-million-dollar ad campaigns attacking Democrats. But these operations deploy their big budgets in secrecy --operating out of P.O. Box addresses to keep reporters like Kroll and Mahanta from asking questions. When Kroll and Mahanta did track down these groups, at a row house in Arlington, VA, no one seemed to be able to answer questions. Watch:

Conservative groups benefit most

As Paul Waldman emphasizes for The American Prospect, there’s a lot of money in play here. Outside groups have already dumped $170 million into the elections, with conservative organizations making the lion’s share of the ad buys (as much as 9-to-1, depending on the analysis). The editors of The Nation note that corporate cash has helped drive the total price tag for the 2010 midterms to nearly $5 billion. “We are witnessing an assault on democracy by multinational corporations that, freed by the Citizens United ruling, are out to get the best government money can buy,” they write. As the editors say -- whichever political party comes out on top on Nov. 2, there’s one obvious loser: democracy.

But wait, there's more!

Be sure to check out Jesse Zwick at The Washington Independent on a lawsuit that wants to push back on the one thing that Citizens United doesn't overturn: Foreign spending on domestic elections.

--The group that inspired boycotts against retail giant Target, MN Forward, has raked in $1.9 million so far this year, including $50,000 from the Republican Governors Association, reports Patrick Caldwell at The Minnesota Independent.

--And over at Campus Progress, Byard Duncan notes that James Cameron is using the powers of political spending to help progressives for once: the director has donated $1 million to the "No on Prop 23" campaign, in an effort to keep the state's climate protection law in place.

--I was on GRITtv with Laura Flanders last night discussing media coverage of campaign finance. The segment starts at 12:30:

    This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the mid-term elections and campaign financing by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit The Media Consortium for more articles on these issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

    Thank you for reading this story…

    More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

    rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

    So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

    And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

    Comments

    We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

    Do

    • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
    • Add context and background.
    • Report typos and logical fallacies.
    • Be respectful.
    • Respect copyright - link to articles.
    • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

    Don't

    • Use oppressive/offensive language.
    • Libel or defame.
    • Bully or troll.
    • Post spam.
    • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.