News Release

Election 2014: Money and “Seesaw Politics”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute and the author of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1995).

He commented on the election results: “So after blowing through more money than any off year election in history, 2014 leave us with this: A war of all against all — all of the Republican Congress against all of the Democratic Executive Branch. There’s no single-minded wave like 2010: it is obvious that huge numbers of Americans detest both parties, and that one of the keys to the election’s outcome was the failure of the president’s supporters to turn out like they did in 2012.

“There’s nothing mystifying about their disenchantment: After six years in the White House, President Obama rescued the banks, but not most of the American people, whose incomes and job prospects continue to languish. Add to that what will likely prove to be a substantial Republican advantage in total spending, and the impression the White House conveyed of constantly being surprised by world events, and it is hardly surprising that we witnessed another installment of ‘seesaw politics.’ The interesting question for the future is how much longer this can go on, in a world in which both Europe and China are slowing down, the Fed is tapering, and the Republicans’ answers to what ails the economy comes basically out of the playbook of the George W. Bush administration: deregulation, more tax cuts for the wealthy, and further cuts in civilian spending to reduce an already shrunken deficit.” One of Ferguson’s most recent articles is “How Big Money Keeps Populism at Bay.”

ROBERT WEISSMAN, LISA GILBERT, via Barbara Holzer, bholzer at citizen.org, @Public_Citizen
Weissman is president of Public Citizen; Gilbert is director of the group’s Congress Watch division. The group states: “Dark money, as well large amounts of disclosed money from outside groups, unjustly reshape elections in much the same way that a funhouse mirror distorts your reflection. What you see no more resembles the real you than these elections resemble a genuinely democratic voting process.

“Enabled by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, billionaires and corporations have grabbed control of our elections. More money than ever is being spent — an estimated $4 billion for this year’s elections, which is a record for a midterm, though the actual total will surely be higher when the final reports are filed.

“But more significant than the actual amounts are the rising expenditures by outside organizations — super PACs, trade associations and so-called social welfare organizations that do not disclose their donors and are not connected to the candidates. … These organizations concentrate their spending on the close races — often spending far more than the candidates themselves — so their influence is concentrated where it matters most. What’s more, at least 57 outside groups that can accept unlimited contributions have devoted all of their resources to supporting a single congressional candidate this election cycle, as detailed in Public Citizen’s latest analysis on outside spending, ‘SuperConnected 2014.'”