Money, guns, sex and politics

Several items across my desk this morning on the perennial favorites of sex, drugs, money, guns, and politics. Let’s start with the money and guns story, since that one comes from Minnesota.

Bid, online auction style, for an exclusive opportunity to be one of just five people on a Shotgun Sporting Clays course walk/shoot (shooting is not required to participate) with your favorite legislator at the Horse & Hunt Club from 3:00PM-4:30PM on Thursday, September 1st. 

So – auctioning off access to legislators? Yes, you can buy access to Congressman John Kline, Congressman Erik Paulsen, State Senator Julianne Ortman, or State Representatives Ernie Leidiger, Joe Hoppe, or Kirk Stensrud according to what Bluestem Prairie’s Sally Jo Sorenson characterizes as

the shocker of an email invitation to a Carver County GOP fundraiser a number of readers passed on to Bluestem. The only common thread these readers share is that they are registered lobbyists; none has attended a  Republican fundraiser in Minnesota before.

The solicitation (republished on Bluestem Prairie), says this is an opportunity for people who are “tired of the same old golf fundraisers” and want “an exclusive opportunity to be just one of five people” walking and shooting (or not) with “your favorite legislator.” Sorenson observes:

What’s remarkable here is two-fold. First, the admission by a Republican that golf is boring.

The second is the open auctioning off of elected officials.

For the full story, check out Bluestem Prairie (which also regularly appears in our blog column). If you like what you see, you might consider voting for Bluestem Prairie in the CBS Minnesota Most Valuable Blogger contest. (In an update – the auction may have been canceled after all the publicity.)

On to sex, always a popular political topic. Salon busted this one:

“Have you ever had sex with Rick Perry?” blares the ad, placed by Morrow in this week’s Austin Chronicle. “Are you a stripper, an escort, or just a ‘young hottie’ impressed by an arrogant, entitled governor of Texas? Contact CASH, and we will help you publicize your direct dealings with a Christian-buzzwords-spouting, ‘family values’ hypocrite and fraud.”

CASH is the Committee Against Sexual Hypocrisy, of which Morrow is president. “Is it a real group? No. It’s just me,” he told Salon earlier this week.

The Austin Chronicle is running the ad, despite its own 2004 investigation:

The Chronicle itself looked into the infidelity/gay rumors in 2004, calling them “extraordinary in their baroque detail and remarkable persistence.” It found “no evidence of any truth to any of them, whatsoever.”

Anyone who reads my blog knows I’m not exactly a Rick Perry ally, but this is just plain wrong. The guy who placed the ad is well known for his wild-eyed political rants, including the allegation that George Herbert Walker Bush killed JFK. News media are NOT required by the First Amendment to run any crap ad that comes to them. They can and should refuse to run garbage like this (as well as phony weight loss claims and other frauds, but that’s another story.)

Finally, circling back around to money and politics. More cash than ever before is pouring into political campaigns, and more than ever before is coming from anonymous donors. The mechanism is independent organizations, aka Super PACs, which can spend all they like on individual campaigns and do not need to disclose where their money comes from. Since the Citizens United decision, the Super PACs can take unlimited corporate money.

Bloomberg News describes their impact:

What these Super PACs do is to effectively lift the campaign-contribution limits, currently at $2,500 per individual, and allow wealthy interests and individuals to make the huge contributions that were the trademark of the era that ended with the Watergate scandal.

Political-action committees have long existed in U.S. politics. In the past, however, they couldn’t accept any corporate or labor-union contributions and individuals couldn’t give more than the legal limit. Two Supreme Court rulings and lax enforcement by the Federal Elections Commission led to the creation of the Super PACs, which, for the first time, can take unlimited money from special interests and individuals and use those funds on behalf of a specific presidential candidate.

Doug Grow reports on local political realities and reactions, and finds GOP chair Tony Sutton worried about the outside financing:

“It’s a horrible development in politics,” said Sutton of the new political playing field. …

The impact will be huge. Sutton pointed to the recall elections recently held in Wisconsin. More than $30 million was spent — mostly by outside organizations — on a handful of races that once would have been run on a few hundred thousand dollars.

“I was in Marshall [in southwest Minnesota] during those campaigns,” Sutton said. “Because of all the television ads [on Twin Cities stations] people were all talking about the race between Sheila Harsdorf and Shelly Moore.”

Those ads, Sutton said, weren’t being paid for by the campaigns or by the parties. Rather, they were being paid by outside interests.

In an end run around disclosure, the Super PACs can accept unlimited donations from 501(c)(4) organizations, which are not required to disclose their donors. (See this article on Politico for a more detailed explanation.)

So, 2012 will be the year of politics funded by unlimited money from anonymous donors.  Compared to that, even auctioning off access to legislators seems quaint and old-fashioned.

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