Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Whammy » Sun Feb 26, 2012 6:56 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:You're still making the same logical error as before: "It was not the most important factor, therefor we don't need to worry about it". Advertising doesn't need to be the most important factor to be able to distort an election. There are other sources of information, but advertising is another source of information. You've conceded that it is a factor- if it is, than some votes are determined by it, so again: if you accept that it is a factor, then you're OK with it being able to change close elections. Are you?

EDIT: Forgot this part- if the best data we have available on advertising is unreliable, then you don't make a case based off of that data. "It's the best we got" isn't enough: the data has to be useful and reliable. People's opinions on whether they're affected by advertising will not be reliable, and thus, will not be useful.


Advertising is different from money though. You can run an ad once and drastically effect an election (ex: the Daisy Ad from the Johnson-Goldwater campaign), or you can run a crap load of them and change nothing (Perry in the Iowa caucus, who spent $4 million but floundered), or it can be so horrendous as to hurt not your opponent but you (Elizabeth Dole's ad attacking Kay Hagan by implying she was an atheist in the 2008 midterm elections, which doubled Hagan's poll numbers and she won the election by 9-point margin). A lot of research has been done on negative advertising, and while it can be very powerful when done right, it is a very risky proposition as well as there are a lot of factors involve that decide whether or not it is an effective tool (oddly, it seems it's more effective against Independents and Democrats than Republicans).

Completely flawed source: you're using data from when Romney was already advertising in Iowa! The advertising is already baked into his polling numbers. The average poll results given only includes polls as far back as December 21. In order for my situation to show the influence of money, it'd have to have exactly what happened happen: a candidate who was a poor fit for a state's electorate was able to spend and invest money over many months building up their brand, their perception of electability, and destroying those of their opponents is able to tie a candidate who is a good fit for the state's electorate, with good ground campaigning skills.

Advertising and money isn't all about getting votes: it's also about denying votes to your opponent- do you see the trend for the other candidates in those polls? They rise, then they fall. Gingrich rose to 25-30% about a month before the caucus, then got hit by advertising from Romney's PAC and immediately sunk back down. You don't think that's the influence of money?


So Romney had been advertising since April of 2011 in Iowa? He lost the Straw Poll if my memory serves, so apparently it didn't help him at that point. Most of those rises and falls were due to candidates being appealing at first then doing something stupid (Perry enters, does poor at debates, falls; Hermain Cain gets the votes, then scandals start hitting right and left, Michelle Bachmann was...Michelle Bachmann). And I'd like to know where all that Gingrich support went when he collapsed in Iowa *notices Rick Santorum and the Ronpaul got a big jump in support just at the same time Gingrich went down*. Well, if Romney's plan was to get people to just not show up and vote, it failed cause they just voted for someone else, with one of those someones tying with him and the other only 3%-less second-place position.

And Romney didn't spend "Months building up their brand". His brand has had 25% approval rating since DAY ONE. And Romney isn't that bad of a fit for Iowa since he got second place in 2008 with ....oh look, 25% of the vote! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_Repub ... uses,_2008 . So his approval rating in Iowa stayed around the same approval rating he had when he ran in 2008 even though he spent more than he did there in 2008 and even had the advantage of name recognition and all that, only to end up being tied with a guy he was outspending by a large margin because of a last minute surge of popularity.

Let's look at New Hampshire:
Romney 2008-31%
Romney 2012-41%

Okay, so he improved in performance there, but looking at polls in New Hampshire since March of 2011: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls ... -1581.html

Yep, pretty much capped at that 40-41% or so no matter how much he spent or tying in Iowa did.

Let's Look at South Carolina:
Romney 2008: 15%
Romney 2012: 28%

That's a respectable increase, but again the polls showing... http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls ... -1590.html
Yep, again, pretty much an even approval rating for at most of the race, just a slight burst of support at the end. Spending was even between Gingrich and Romney though in this race so you can't just claim Romney did a massive anti-Gingrich negative ad campaign. I wonder what caused that surge:

Date of the Surge's Start: January 4th
Date of NH Primary: January 3rd

So Romney does well in another primary, Gingrich does bad in said primary, Romney gains support, Gingrich loses...well, South Carolina is known for correctly picking the winner. Maybe people wanted to keep that status and saw the Romney wave (at this point it was still said Romney won Iowa and New Hampshire)?

And Santorum apparently did something to get a massive surge *shrug*


Let's go to Florida then:
Romney 2008: 31%
Romney 2012: 46%

Okay, did pretty well for himself compared to the last election, though in this election he's actually been winning some stuff and was the expected front-runner so it's not surprising. And again, Romney keeps hovers around a cap for a long period of time, surges at last second with slight amount over that cap of his: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls ... -1597.html

Point is, if Romney's money is having any real influence at all, it's in just stabilizing what he's had since the very beginning in pretty much every single race so far.

Did you miss my source on how 25% of all superPAC funding in this election cycle has come from five (5) individuals? This is exactly what is happening.

I already knew a very large percentage of superPAC funding is coming from a small group of people. But as a total of all spending so far, most of it is coming from individual donations:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sp ... =P80003353

You'll have to scroll down to the contribution size chart so see that. And among money spent right now, most of it is coming out of the campaigns themselves. Still, even with all the money in the world it seems Romney has spent, his numbers, his polls, everything shows he is basically just standing still. He can't get that decisive, crushing blow you would expect him to get with all that money if money was the determining factor in elections.

So money would have helped Nader then, yes? Ignore his policies, his stances, or his statements- $100 million going to a 3rd party candidate (magically, if need be) would make a big difference. Is it any surprise that the best performing non-major party candidate (Perot) in generations also happened to be a billionaire?


I'll have to get back to you on the stuff about Perot cause apparently no one bothered keeping records of spending during that time >_> *curse you FEC and Open Secrets*,

And I don't see much comparable amount of support for two competing candidates- they're giving to candidates on both sides that support their positions. I don't see any hedge betting. As for unions: can you find an example of me saying that union involvement in campaigns is any better? Good luck.


I know you didn't say anything like that. It was just me commenting on the fact that in all this talk about corporate spending people tend to forget that unions are pretty much the same thing. It was just a rather interesting observation as far as I'm concerned.

But yes, generally speaking, corporations will spend on both sides of the aisles in order to get what they want in order to benefit themselves. Yes, between two competing candidates they'll give more to one than the other...because one of them is the incumbent. I probably don't need to explain why they might give more to an incumbent than the challenger (although studies on campaign spending has found that money is more useful for a challenger than an incumbent *shrug*).

Romney's support has been consist, and so has his access to money. Gingrich's access to money has not been. Huh, I see a trend here, do you?


Yeah, that Gingrich and the other candidates are horrible candidates who are unable to keep the voters interest and support and failed to even make the ground effort to run a campaign (GIngrich isn't even on the ballot in several states that are coming up this super-Tuesday for crying out loud) and most likely didn't even join the campaign seriously and instead use it as a book tour excuse (like Hermain Cain) and accidentally ended up a leading candidate while Romney, who has been expected to be the winner since Day 1 of the lead up to the primaries, is spending huge amounts that dwarf everyone only to stay in the same place he's been since Day 1.

"Likewise, the majority argued that independent expenditures are a form of speech, and limiting a corporation’s ability to spend money also limits its ability to speak. One of the main changes to First Amendment law, announced by the majority, was the expansion of corporate rights recognized by the Court." (Here) I'm going to say that your interpretation of Citazens United is flawed.


[quote=Citizens United]
(a) Although the First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech,” §441b’s prohibition on corporate independent expenditures is an outright ban on speech, backed by criminal sanctions. ... Because speech is an essential mechanism of democracy—it is the means to hold officials accountable to the people—political speech must prevail against laws that would suppress it by design or inadvertence. Laws burdening such speech are subject to strict scrutiny, which requires the Government to prove that the restriction “furthers a compelling interest and is narrowly tailored to achieve that interest.” WRTL, 551 U. S., at 464.

(b) The Court has recognized that the First Amendment applies to corporations, e.g., First Nat. Bank of Boston v. Bellotti , 435 U. S. 765 , and extended this protection to the context of political speech, see, e.g., NAACP v. Button , 371 U. S. 415 .

(1) bT]he First Amendment prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for engaging in political speech,[/b] but Austin ’s antidistortion rationale would permit the Government to ban political speech because the speaker is an association with a corporate form. Political speech is “indispensable to decisionmaking in a democracy, and this is no less true because the speech comes from a corporation.” Bellotti, supra, at 777

All speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech, and the First Amendment protects the resulting speech. Under the antidistortion rationale, Congress could also ban political speech of media corporations. Although currently exempt from §441b, they accumulate wealth with the help of their corporate form, may have aggregations of wealth, and may express views “hav[ing] little or no correlation to the public’s support” for those views. Differential treatment of media corporations and other corporations cannot be squared with the First Amendment , and there is no support for the view that the Amendment’s original meaning would permit suppressing media corporations’ political speech.
[/quote]

Bolded for emphasis on parts that pretty much recognize that individuals have all these rights, media corporations have these rights, and so there is no valid reason why other corporations can not be granted these rights (well...technically speaking they've already had all these rights through PACs, it's just expanded.Citizen's United really didn't change that much beyond a spending cap).

You're reasoning is still completely flawed. The person with less money winning does not prevent money from being a significant influence. Especially when the money we're talking about is not the money that the candidates spent. You're ignoring the potential personal advantages of each individual candidate, incumbency, the electorate that made up their district or state... You're saying that money wasn't the sole determinant: so what? I have never said it was.


Yep, you didn't read the report at all:

Party and non-party spending to help competitive Democrats and Republicans was about equal across the parties. As a result, neither set of expenditures could be said to have tipped the electoral balance.


Non-party spending is all the individual expenditures and what not. And as the reports showed, prior to 2008, it was Democrats who had the advantage in terms of money (although the decline in 2010 was due to less party spending), and they kept in 2010 but not by much. So at least in the 2010 election, non-party spending allowed for a more even playing field in terms of money, and so money was not the factor that determined who won the election and instead left it up to everything you just said.

And the bolded is where the two of us differ. I'm not arguing money isn't an influence; I argue that it is an insignificant influence that is dwarfed by much larger factors such as the stuff you mentioned as well social and cultural movements that may be occurring at the time of the election (TEA Party, OWS, etc), state of the economy at the time of the election (which tends to be the best predictor really), etc. etc.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby lutzj » Sun Feb 26, 2012 7:07 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:
lutzj wrote:The money comes from somewhere. Suppose someone expends an amount of labor equivalent to our hypothetical campaign manager and mines $5 million in gold, then donates that to a political campaign. Would you be okay with that?

No, I wouldn't, because, as you started off saying- the money does come from somewhere, all money does. The political act of theirs- donating the money- lacks the time or personal commitment that you see from the political act of the other- donating time and talent- which requires time and personal commitment as effectively an essential component. Due to that, there are more direct limits on that person's ability to influence events. With money, you're only limited by what you have- not your time, not your willingness to avoid sleep, not your charisma, not your intellect, not even your ability to tolerate the candidate as a human being. Your only limitation is your bank account.


I'm not convinced any of this matters. $5 million is equivalent to $5 million of goods and services by definition. If I'm an excellent gold miner but a crappy campaigner, why can't I support my favorite candidate through gold mining instead of campaigning? Is your contention really that the difficulty of a given contribution makes it more acceptable?

lutzj wrote:You also still haven't shown a difference in the impact of 5 million talent-dollars versus 5 million dollar-dollars, which is all we really care about when we're worried about harmful impacts on our democracy.

That depends a lot on what you specifically mean by impact- do you mean the direct impact, the impact on the political process, the impact on the person giving it, the impact on the candidate, or what? The answer could vary depending on which of those you intend, and your question isn't specific enough for me to risk a guess at which impact you did mean.


Sorry if I wasn't clear; I'm wondering what you think the difference in impact is to a given candidate's campaign.
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Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Ghostbear » Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:01 am UTC

Whammy, you keep ignoring this, so I'm going to separate it from the rest and focus on this for a moment. Much of the reasoning and evidence you are providing are not for the argument "Money doesn't matter in politics"- instead, they are for the argument "Money is not the sole overriding factor in politics". You are giving evidence, logic and reasoning for it to not be the sole factor (which is correct), and then erroneously concluding that money isn't a significant factor.

Several times you refer to the idea of looking at who had the most money in a close election, concluding that if the person with less money won, then money didn't matter. That is false; what if the person with more money was only able to get it that close because of their advantage? With arguments like that, you're ignoring every single other possible factor in an election! If you took a terrible candidate, say, Bachmann, and gave them $1 billion to spend on an election against a great candidate (resurrected Eisenhower? probably the least controversial president in somewhat-recent memory) with only $1 million (enough to run a shoe-string campaign), and our zombie-Eisenhower won, but the election was close, you could not then conclude that "money didn't matter". Doing so ignores the dynamics of the race, the mood of the country, the charisma or intellect of the candidates, the strength of their debate performances- it ignores everything else, which is downright disingenuous.

At other times, you have referred to Romney not exploding in the polls due to advertising (what if he needed the advertising to stay level?, what if the advertising was against other candidates instead of for Romney?), you ignore that Romney's worst states* (South Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota) were all states he did not majorly outspend his rivals, while his best states* (Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) are all ones where he either (or both) had a significant demographic advantage (Nevada, New Hampshire) or where he did notably outspend his rivals (Iowa, Florida, and I believe he did so in New Hampshire as well).

Also, this is the 3rd or 4th time I need to ask: if you think money is just a minor factor, are you OK with the possibility of a few rich people changing the outcome of a close election?

* As relative to both expectations and absolute performance.

Whammy wrote:Advertising is different from money though. You can run an ad once and drastically effect an election (ex: the Daisy Ad from the Johnson-Goldwater campaign), or you can run a crap load of them and change nothing (Perry in the Iowa caucus, who spent $4 million but floundered), or it can be so horrendous as to hurt not your opponent but you (Elizabeth Dole's ad attacking Kay Hagan by implying she was an atheist in the 2008 midterm elections, which doubled Hagan's poll numbers and she won the election by 9-point margin). A lot of research has been done on negative advertising, and while it can be very powerful when done right, it is a very risky proposition as well as there are a lot of factors involve that decide whether or not it is an effective tool (oddly, it seems it's more effective against Independents and Democrats than Republicans).

So you would concede then that advertising can be an important factor in an election?

Whammy wrote:So Romney had been advertising since April of 2011 in Iowa? He lost the Straw Poll if my memory serves, so apparently it didn't help him at that point. Most of those rises and falls were due to candidates being appealing at first then doing something stupid (Perry enters, does poor at debates, falls; Hermain Cain gets the votes, then scandals start hitting right and left, Michelle Bachmann was...Michelle Bachmann). And I'd like to know where all that Gingrich support went when he collapsed in Iowa *notices Rick Santorum and the Ronpaul got a big jump in support just at the same time Gingrich went down*. Well, if Romney's plan was to get people to just not show up and vote, it failed cause they just voted for someone else, with one of those someones tying with him and the other only 3%-less second-place position.

The averages you gave were calculated from a sub-set of those polls, with the earliest starting Dec. 21- which is what I said. As for April specifically, the starting front runner in republican races is frequently the runner-up from the previous election. I don't see what the straw poll has to do with this? Something as small as that determines how enthusiastic your supporters are, not how common (though that does of course play some minor role). If anything, it perfectly illustrates how poor of a match Romney was for Iowa. As for the rest, you're misrepresenting what I said: the advertising is to prevent people from voting, whether it be at all or merely for that person. In this case, Romney's goal would have been to prevent any of his conservative challengers from building up sufficient momentum to become the new "frontrunner", and then from that position leach support from the other conservative candidates. You can see the exact scenario he feared in Iowa as what happened in South Carolina- by then, three of the more conservative candidates dropped out (Perry, Bachmann, and Cain- though Cain had dropped out even before Iowa), and most of their support coalesced around a single individual (Gingrich).

Whammy wrote:And Romney didn't spend "Months building up their brand". His brand has had 25% approval rating since DAY ONE. And Romney isn't that bad of a fit for Iowa since he got second place in 2008 with ....oh look, 25% of the vote! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_Repub ... uses,_2008 . So his approval rating in Iowa stayed around the same approval rating he had when he ran in 2008 even though he spent more than he did there in 2008 and even had the advantage of name recognition and all that, only to end up being tied with a guy he was outspending by a large margin because of a last minute surge of popularity.

For the first part- Romney being a good fit for Iowa in 2008 does not make him a good fit for 2012- 4 years is a long time in politics (I remember after Nov. 2008, people were wondering if the republican party would collapse from lack of support- which is not what is being thought any longer). He was seen as one of the more conservative challengers back then, and was viewed as the second least conservative challenger in Iowa this time, and the only one viewed as less conservative (Huntsman) did not contest Iowa. Santorum was definitely a better demographic fit for Iowa's republican caucus. Or, let's look at this another way: if Santorum had been able to spend the same amount of money in Iowa as Romney did, do you think his final results wouldn't have changed? What about double? Triple? Money wasn't enough to get Romney a victory, but lack of money from the other candidates was enough to prevent a resounding win from them.

Whammy wrote:I already knew a very large percentage of superPAC funding is coming from a small group of people. But as a total of all spending so far, most of it is coming from individual donations:

You stated that candidates were only going to have more money because of those individual donations, while for some groups, that is not true. Gingrich, as people have harped on before- were it not for angel Adelson, he'd have had significantly less money. If it can occur that a candidate will be funded because of a single or small handful of rich people (implying that it could happen again, in future elections) does this change your opinion? You said it won't be, but in some cases, it is- is that not worth including in our analysis?

Whammy wrote:I'll have to get back to you on the stuff about Perot cause apparently no one bothered keeping records of spending during that time >_> *curse you FEC and Open Secrets*,

He spent at least $60 million, with $40 million in October alone, and by July had spent $12 million, while having pledged initially to spend $100 million of his own, and also vowed to refuse any donations over $5.

Whammy wrote:
All speakers, including individuals and the media, use money amassed from the economic marketplace to fund their speech, and the First Amendment protects the resulting speech. Under the antidistortion rationale, Congress could also ban political speech of media corporations. Although currently exempt from §441b, they accumulate wealth with the help of their corporate form, may have aggregations of wealth, and may express views “hav[ing] little or no correlation to the public’s support” for those views. Differential treatment of media corporations and other corporations cannot be squared with the First Amendment , and there is no support for the view that the Amendment’s original meaning would permit suppressing media corporations’ political speech.


Bolded for emphasis on parts that pretty much recognize that individuals have all these rights, media corporations have these rights, and so there is no valid reason why other corporations can not be granted these rights (well...technically speaking they've already had all these rights through PACs, it's just expanded.Citizen's United really didn't change that much beyond a spending cap).

So if restricting the ability to spend money on speech is infringement on that protection of speech, how is money not equivalent to speech for the purposes of this ruling? You're arguing from a point of minor semantics.

Whammy wrote:So at least in the 2010 election, non-party spending allowed for a more even playing field in terms of money, and so money was not the factor that determined who won the election and instead left it up to everything you just said.

So if it takes the amount of money available to both groups being equivalent to allow other factors to determine the outcome.... Did you not read what you just said? You've perfectly concluded that money does matter! If you give everyone (roughly) the same amount of money, of course it won't matter, because it's been removed as a means to differentiate- if that's the only way to make money "not a factor" then it obviously is a factor in cases where money is not equal.

lutzj wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:With money, you're only limited by what you have- not your time, not your willingness to avoid sleep, not your charisma, not your intellect, not even your ability to tolerate the candidate as a human being. Your only limitation is your bank account.

I'm not convinced any of this matters. $5 million is equivalent to $5 million of goods and services by definition. If I'm an excellent gold miner but a crappy campaigner, why can't I support my favorite candidate through gold mining instead of campaigning? Is your contention really that the difficulty of a given contribution makes it more acceptable?

I left in the part of my quote that I think is important for answering your last question- it's not just the difficulty, it's the limitations, the commitment, the time. Money can come from anywhere (inherited, gold mining, investments, working, etc.) while you're time spent on a political campaign can only come from one source: you. There is a strict, physical limit on how much any individual can contribute to a campaign- 24 hours a day (with a practical limit of 16-18 hours a day, and a sustained practical limit of probably 10-14 hours a day). If Bill Gates wants to influence an election with money, and I want to influence an election with money, Gates is limited to nearly $60 billion, and I'm limited to a few hundred dollars. If Gates and I want to influence an election with our personal talents, he has the same limitation as I do: 24 hours each day. Removing limitations on money makes it so that the gap between two people's ability to influence an election is made potentially enormous. While that difference was still there beforehand, and it was not insignificant (I wouldn't be able to donate $2,500, for instance), it was significantly less overwhelming.

Another way to look at it- we each build up our talents outside of the race, some natural, some earned, but are physically limited by time itself in donating them. As with those talents, we build up our money outside of the race, again, some earned, some "natural", and political spending limitations provided an attempt at a limit similar to the physical one for talent. Some people will be more talented than others, and some people will be richer than others, but we had a natural limitation for limiting the influence of a minimum of talented individuals, and the spending limitation provided a legal limit on the influence of a handful of wealthy individuals.

lutzj wrote:Sorry if I wasn't clear; I'm wondering what you think the difference in impact is to a given candidate's campaign.

This sort of bleeds in with the other bit (though I couldn't find a good way to satisfactorily merge them together), but there's a lack of limitations on how the money is applied. Say we take your campaign worker whose talent is being able to get $5 million in donations and compare that to just a $5 million donation. The campaign worker's skills can't be converted into something else- they might be good at getting donations, but they probably won't be a good debate coach, or campaign strategist, they won't be able to be turned into political mailers, or hundreds of phone bank operators, or... The $5 million in money can be turned into all of those things. If you have someone with talents that are worth $5 million, those talents might not always be worth $5 million- maybe the debates get cancelled, the US phone system collapses, or whatever- the $5 million in money will always be worth $5 million. Money is inherently liquid- talent is not.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby folkhero » Mon Feb 27, 2012 8:35 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Also, this is the 3rd or 4th time I need to ask: if you think money is just a minor factor, are you OK with the possibility of a few rich people changing the outcome of a close election?
The question isn't for me, but I'll answer it anyway. If the rich people are changing the election by spreading ideas (and not doing something like bribing people to lose election boxes) then I'm OK with it. Certain small groups of people will have disproportionate influence on the election, no matter what you try to do to stop it: campaign staffers, newspaper editorial boards, clever artists, and other politicians making endorsements (or not) to name a few. I don't see why rich people are inherently less trustworthy than any of those other groups.
Ghostbear wrote:There is a strict, physical limit on how much any individual can contribute to a campaign- 24 hours a day (with a practical limit of 16-18 hours a day, and a sustained practical limit of probably 10-14 hours a day). If Bill Gates wants to influence an election with money, and I want to influence an election with money, Gates is limited to nearly $60 billion, and I'm limited to a few hundred dollars.
If I want to influence and election with campaign strategies and Carl Rove wants to influence an election with campaign strategies, then Rove is going to be vastly more influential than me and it has nothing to do with how many hours are in his day.
Ghostbear wrote:If you have someone with talents that are worth $5 million, those talents might not always be worth $5 million- maybe the debates get cancelled, the US phone system collapses, or whatever- the $5 million in money will always be worth $5 million.
Maybe the campaign manager will get eaten by a bear! The hypothetical is that the manager does, after all is said and done, have a huge influence (say $5 million if you want to quantify it monetarily); changing the hypothetical so that he doesn't actually have that influence doesn't address the point that the hypothetical raises. There is also the fact that the $5 million in cash won't always be worth $5 million, that money will be spent and if the campaign or the candidate is crummy the money may easily go towards things that don't change anyone's mind, or even it might be spent counter-productively like that Elizabeth Dole atheism ad.
Ghostbear wrote:Money is inherently liquid- talent is not.
Why is liquidity of a resource bad, or undemocratic, or whatever? I'm not seeing how it's relevant.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Whammy » Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:21 am UTC

Okay Ghostbear, I'm going to start by addressing this part of your post first before I hone in on what I am getting is the biggest issue between us.

Also, this is the 3rd or 4th time I need to ask: if you think money is just a minor factor, are you OK with the possibility of a few rich people changing the outcome of a close election?


There is a reason I keep ignoring this part; I am looking at this issue as a political science. I am concerned about looking at whether or not there is an effect money has on an election, and if there is an effect what is the level of that effect. That question is asking for a value-based normative statement. I'm not going to answer, and I would appreciate it if you would stop asking.

So anyway, going through the posts I think the largest point of distinction between us right in terms of this argument basically amounts to Romney's use of negative advertising as a sign of the influence of money; instead of using his vast war chest to increase his own standing, he uses it to bring down his opponents. And to be honest, at first glance the data would seem to be in your favor as the two biggest examples we have right now of his use against Gingrich suggests it to be true.

But let's step back for a moment and consider; is the reason the negative advertising so effective is because Romney spends a lot of money on it, or are there outside variables that makes negative campaigning a particularly effective tactic to use against Gingrich.

What can be considered the important factors of a negative campaign? Right off the back we can probably throw in:
-Personality of the candidates
-Past history of the candidates, particularly any moral or ethical failings
-Past policies of the candidates
-What issues are of importance at this time?
-When are these ads attacked? (the closer to election day it seems, the less effective the ads)
-What is the leaning of the people being targeted (Independents and Democrats are more affected than Republicans; the base gets excited by them and weaker voters are turned off, etc etc._
-How much negative advertising are you doing?
-How negative are the attacks?

So let's think about Gingrich as a candidate and see what he might in. Gingrich, we can all agree, is a divisive, blunt, rude, and polarizing candidate who is known for making statements that are inflammatory. He has a long, long history of ethical and moral failings, having left the Speaker position disliked by Republicans, had ethics violations charged against him, three wives (and the news about asking for an 'open marriage'), etc etc. With the anti-Wall Street sentiments in the country right now, having worked as a "historian" and "Strategic advisor" for Fanny Mae (and getting paid millions for it) brings up quite a bit of issues. And as the race has gone on he keeps saying more and more "stupid things" ("paychecks instead of foodstamps" for example?), and while attacking Romney for Bain Capital helped maybe for a bit, Romney's turning it around into a "attack on capitalism" probably hurt him too.

So yeah, you're probably right that Gingrich is being kept down by Romney's negative advertising, but is it simply because Romney is spending a lot of money on it, or is it maybe Gingrich as a candidate is particularly susceptible to negative advertising? I mean, Romney is spending a lot of money on Santorum right now, but it seems it's not being as effective as the negative advertising on Gingrich; just look at the slope on the changes:

Santorum in Michigan: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls ... -1589.html

But let's look what has happened since Michigan; a lot more attention has been put on Santorum, and we're getting a very nice cache of controversial comments regarding women's right and religion in politics that would obviously put off more liberal or moderate Republicans. If anything, it's surprising he has had such a steady drop instead of the massive drops like Gingrich. I think it'll be interesting to see how Michigan goes and how it affects Ohio:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls ... -1600.html



And this really leads I think to the biggest issue at hand here, and in a way exampled by the discussion between the $5 million donation vs a campaign manager worth $5 million. As a candidate, I would rather have the $5 million campaign manager than the money. Why? Because I don't know what the hell to do with the money. If I'm not using the money right, my campaign is going to tank (see...actually Gingrich or Perry would be good examples) even if I have more than my opponents. The reason being is that money is a tool; simply having more isn't going to win you elections. You have to use it right, and if the campaign manager is worth $5 million, I expect that to reflect his or her past successes as a manager (aka he or she wins elections). Raising money is time consuming and hard, but nothing beats a good campaign manager who knows what they are doing and how to effectively use the resources at hand (ex: Karl Rove).
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Malice » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:21 am UTC

folkhero wrote:
Ghostbear wrote:Also, this is the 3rd or 4th time I need to ask: if you think money is just a minor factor, are you OK with the possibility of a few rich people changing the outcome of a close election?
The question isn't for me, but I'll answer it anyway. If the rich people are changing the election by spreading ideas (and not doing something like bribing people to lose election boxes) then I'm OK with it. Certain small groups of people will have disproportionate influence on the election, no matter what you try to do to stop it: campaign staffers, newspaper editorial boards, clever artists, and other politicians making endorsements (or not) to name a few. I don't see why rich people are inherently less trustworthy than any of those other groups.


Honestly? Because there's no massive inequality gap between clever artists and everyone else, or newspaper columnists and everyone else. But giving the wealthy/successful more control over the political process means giving them more control over the laws which tax and govern them--it's a "positive feedback loop" where more control gives them more control gives them more control. The more we can do to prevent that, the better for our society as a whole.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:15 am UTC

folkhero wrote:The question isn't for me, but I'll answer it anyway. If the rich people are changing the election by spreading ideas (and not doing something like bribing people to lose election boxes) then I'm OK with it. Certain small groups of people will have disproportionate influence on the election, no matter what you try to do to stop it: campaign staffers, newspaper editorial boards, clever artists, and other politicians making endorsements (or not) to name a few. I don't see why rich people are inherently less trustworthy than any of those other groups.

Beyond what Malice has said, I take issue with the implied notion that because something will happen to some extent no matter what, that we should attempt to do nothing about it. Especially when we have reasons to believe that doing something about it will mitigate the problem.

folkhero wrote:If I want to influence and election with campaign strategies and Carl Rove wants to influence an election with campaign strategies, then Rove is going to be vastly more influential than me and it has nothing to do with how many hours are in his day.

Yes, but this misses the rest of my explanation; there is a physical limit on how much Rove can assist with his talents. There is a double limitation inherent to such, in both your talents (differs from person to person) and the number of hours a day (constant from person to person). There is no physical limit on how much someone can donate with their money- there is only one limitation, which is how much money you have (differs from person to person). With a spending limit, there will then be two limitations, one that varies from person to person (amount of money you have), and one that does not (can only donate up to $2,500). It brings the two branches to a sense of balance, and it is why I see there being a difference.

Maybe if I do a dumb example: say you're really amazing at get out the vote efforts- 100 times better than a "normal" person-, and you want to help candidate A. You can spend 16 hours everyday (with the other 8 hours for sleep, eating, hygiene, etc.) working on that get out the vote effort. After a week, you've accumulated the effective efforts of 11,200 hours of "normal" person get out of the vote work. If you're the only person that believes in candidate A enough to do that, and yet 1,000 people believe in candidate B enough to work on get out the vote efforts for them, then they will be able to outdo you by an order of magnitude- 112,000 effective hours. Now change that scenario to money: you're obscenely wealthy, and you want to help candidate A. You donate $20 million to candidate A's campaign. Just like last time, you're the only person that believes in candidate A, and 1,000 people believe in candidate B. If each of those 1,000 people can only readily afford to donate, on average, $1,000 to candidate B, you have now contributed twenty times as much to your candidate as they have to theirs. If there was a spending limit- $2,500- then even though you believe in your candidate more, that limit prevents you from outdoing the efforts of those 1,000 people single handedly, just as the limitations of time did the same with the talent example. In a democracy, you definitely want to avoid situations of a single individual being able to out-influence a 1,000 people. No, it's not 100% avoidable (as you yourself gave good examples of), but you can mitigate it significantly.

I know that's not a perfect example (hence, my calling it dumb), but it's just meant to illustrate how the two limitations play out differently.

folkhero wrote:Maybe the campaign manager will get eaten by a bear! The hypothetical is that the manager does, after all is said and done, have a huge influence (say $5 million if you want to quantify it monetarily); changing the hypothetical so that he doesn't actually have that influence doesn't address the point that the hypothetical raises. There is also the fact that the $5 million in cash won't always be worth $5 million, that money will be spent and if the campaign or the candidate is crummy the money may easily go towards things that don't change anyone's mind, or even it might be spent counter-productively like that Elizabeth Dole atheism ad.

Why is liquidity of a resource bad, or undemocratic, or whatever? I'm not seeing how it's relevant.

You're missing the point here. When you have a campaign manager, you can't turn them into something else, you're stuck with trying to get that $5 million out of their specific abilities. If you have $5 million, you can hire that exact same campaign manager if you like, or you can buy advertisements, or you can get a different manager, or anything else purchasable for up to $5 million.

You asked (EDIT: Whoops, I said you asked it when you weren't the one who did. Sorry about that. Anyway, I was asked what the difference was.) what the difference was between them on a campaign, and the answer to that is the liquidity of those assets. I did not say that liquidity makes something inherently bad or undemocratic or whatever (even in situation with 100% public funding for campaigns, they're going to start out with their assets as liquid- I do not consider that bad). It was an answer to your question of how those two resources could impact a campaign differently.

(Also, sorry for not replying to your earlier post- was not an intentional slight or anything)

Whammy wrote:There is a reason I keep ignoring this part; I am looking at this issue as a political science. I am concerned about looking at whether or not there is an effect money has on an election, and if there is an effect what is the level of that effect. That question is asking for a value-based normative statement. I'm not going to answer, and I would appreciate it if you would stop asking.

You aren't purely looking at this issue purely as political science, you have brought up freedom of speech, you have given evidence of a minimal impact and then shrugged it off as forgettable. I took issue with that dismissal of the implications of your own evidence- if it does matter that little bit, then you have to ask yourself if you're OK with the full implications of that little bit. It's not something that should just be ignored- it is a question based on your own argument, your own evidence. If you don't like the question, then perhaps you should give up on the reasoning and data that spawned it? Just because you don't like a question does not make it a bad one.

Whammy wrote:But let's step back for a moment and consider; is the reason the negative advertising so effective is because Romney spends a lot of money on it, or are there outside variables that makes negative campaigning a particularly effective tactic to use against Gingrich.

Still missing the point: if the advertising is or can be effective (regardless of the reason) and that advertising costs money, then money does make a difference- because someone without the money to make those advertisements is going to not gain that effect, while someone with that money will gain that effect. It's a very basic scenario, but it illustrates the point quite succinctly. If all of these things (advertisements, campaign managers, phone banks, paid mailers, get out the vote efforts, strategists) matter (and they do matter!), and all of those things cost money (they do!), then how can money not matter? Money buys things that do!

Whammy wrote:What can be considered the important factors of a negative campaign? Right off the back we can probably throw in:
[list of stuff]

So let's think about Gingrich as a candidate and see what he might in. Gingrich, we can all agree, is a divisive, blunt, rude, and polarizing candidate who is known for making statements that are inflammatory. He has a long, long history of ethical and moral failings, having left the Speaker position disliked by Republicans, had ethics violations charged against him, three wives (and the news about asking for an 'open marriage'), etc etc. With the anti-Wall Street sentiments in the country right now, having worked as a "historian" and "Strategic advisor" for Fanny Mae (and getting paid millions for it) brings up quite a bit of issues. And as the race has gone on he keeps saying more and more "stupid things" ("paychecks instead of foodstamps" for example?), and while attacking Romney for Bain Capital helped maybe for a bit, Romney's turning it around into a "attack on capitalism" probably hurt him too.

You're making the same logical error here that I brought up at the top of my previous post- you're saying that because other things do influence an election, that money does not. That is fundamentally illogical. You can't just zero in on one fact (say, the economy) and say then that because some of the outcome can be explained by that, that other things (demographic turnout, candidate charisma, national mood, etc.) do not matter. I did not go out of my way to draw attention to that point in my past post because I thought it wasn't important- it is a very basic (yet significant) structural flaw in your arguments that has not gone away.

Yes, Gingrich has a lot of negatives to him, and those have hurt his campaign, but that does not change his lack of money from hurting his campaign as well. If Gingrich's campaign had another $100 million before Florida, do you think he would be doing, worse, or exactly the same as he is now? If Romney hadn't massively outspent Gingrich in Florida, do you think the outcome (or the magnitude of the victory/loss) would have been different?

Whammy wrote:So yeah, you're probably right that Gingrich is being kept down by Romney's negative advertising, but is it simply because Romney is spending a lot of money on it, or is it maybe Gingrich as a candidate is particularly susceptible to negative advertising? I mean, Romney is spending a lot of money on Santorum right now, but it seems it's not being as effective as the negative advertising on Gingrich; just look at the slope on the changes:

Santorum in Michigan: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls ... -1589.html

But let's look what has happened since Michigan; a lot more attention has been put on Santorum, and we're getting a very nice cache of controversial comments regarding women's right and religion in politics that would obviously put off more liberal or moderate Republicans. If anything, it's surprising he has had such a steady drop instead of the massive drops like Gingrich.

Earlier I gave you data that would exactly lead someone to expect that exact difference between Romney v. Gingrich in Florida and Romney v. Santorum in Michigan:
Image
Romney's money advantage in Michigan is significantly less than it was in other states, and look! The data we get following that knowledge (as you have just provided) lines up with exactly what you'd expect to have happen when money matters.

Again, look at the states Romney did well in, both in an absolute sense and relative to expectations- Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada- and then look at the states where he did poorly, also in an absolute sense and relative to expectations- South Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri- there is a very consistent pattern with those two groups. In one of those groups, Romney consistently had spending advantages over his rivals (and in his two best performances, demographic or regional advantages as well), In the other group, Romney consistently lacked that spending advantage over his rivals. This nomination is full of great examples of how money does matter- Romney is able to deflate or weaken opponents with his ability to purchase negative advertising, Adelson is able to single handedly keep Gingrich in the race, the frontrunner's best states are all ones that he invested the most money in, and his worst are the ones he did not over-invest in (relative to other candidates).

Whammy wrote:And this really leads I think to the biggest issue at hand here, and in a way exampled by the discussion between the $5 million donation vs a campaign manager worth $5 million. As a candidate, I would rather have the $5 million campaign manager than the money. Why? Because I don't know what the hell to do with the money. If I'm not using the money right, my campaign is going to tank (see...actually Gingrich or Perry would be good examples) even if I have more than my opponents. The reason being is that money is a tool; simply having more isn't going to win you elections. You have to use it right, and if the campaign manager is worth $5 million, I expect that to reflect his or her past successes as a manager (aka he or she wins elections). Raising money is time consuming and hard, but nothing beats a good campaign manager who knows what they are doing and how to effectively use the resources at hand (ex: Karl Rove).

Which also misses the point I was making. If you get a $5 million donation, and you want that $5 million campaign manager... you have the exact quantity of resources to hire them! If you get the donation and you wanted a $5 million debate coach- you still have the resources you'd need to hire them. If you get that money and wanted an advertising campaign in the Miami TV market- you can now buy $5 million worth of it. If you wanted the world's largest rubber duck made to mockingly look like one of your opponents, it's all yours. If you get the campaign manager, and you wanted the campaign manager, well, you're all set. If you got the campaign manager and wanted that debate coach, you wanted the advertising campaign, you wanted that rubber duck, then tough cookies, you can't have them. The liquidity is a huge asset to that donation- you can not rely on non-monetary contributions being what you want or need them to be (of equal worth), but you can rely on monetary contributions becoming what you want them to be (of equal worth).
Last edited by Ghostbear on Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:38 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby lutzj » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:35 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:Which also misses the point I was making. If you get a $5 million donation, and you want that $5 million campaign manager... you have the exact quantity of resources to hire them! If you get the donation and you wanted a $5 million debate coach- you still have the resources you'd need to hire them. If you get that money and wanted an advertising campaign in the Miami TV market- you can now buy $5 million worth of it. If you wanted the world's largest rubber duck made to mockingly look like one of your opponents, it's all yours. If you get the campaign manager, and you wanted the campaign manager, well, you're all set. If you got the campaign manager and wanted that debate coach, you wanted the advertising campaign, you wanted that rubber duck, then tough cookies, you can't have them. The liquidity is a huge asset to that donation- you can not rely on non-monetary contributions being what you want or need them to be (of equal worth), but you can rely on monetary contributions becoming what you want them to be (of equal worth).


I think the original stipulation was that our imaginary campaign manager was providing campaign expertise equivalent to $5 million in spending, not that the campaign manager actually cost $5 million. In other words, any suboptimal use of that cash will secure fewer votes than our campaign manager.

Yes, but this misses the rest of my explanation; there is a physical limit on how much Rove can assist with his talents. There is a double limitation inherent to such, in both your talents (differs from person to person) and the number of hours a day (constant from person to person). There is no physical limit on how much someone can donate with their money- there is only one limitation, which is how much money you have (differs from person to person). With a spending limit, there will then be two limitations, one that varies from person to person (amount of money you have), and one that does not (can only donate up to $2,500). It brings the two branches to a sense of balance, and it is why I see there being a difference.


If you think the two are so analgous, would you also put a cap on the amount of talent people are able to utilize in assisting a campaign? After all, we wouldn't want those talented people to have undue influence in government; they might establish a bizarre meritocracy that marginalizes everybody who isn't good at campaigning!

You keep saying that a variable x (campaigning prowess) multiplied by a constant y (time in the day) somehow scales less than a variable z (money). Both xy and z are values that can theoretically become infitely large (although both money and talent run into diminishing returns, especially once you've reached 50% + 1 votes) and vary massively from person to person. What you are advocating is capping z so that it effectively becomes a constant for many people, which gives much more potential influence to people with high x values, (and I'm pretty sure you're not advocating an analgous cap for x).
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:01 pm UTC

lutzj wrote:I think the original stipulation was that our imaginary campaign manager was providing campaign expertise equivalent to $5 million in spending, not that the campaign manager actually cost $5 million. In other words, any suboptimal use of that cash will secure fewer votes than our campaign manager.

I'm not sure how that changes the liquidity factor at all? Actually, let's try to look at it a different way, if you're saying they don't cost $5 million, and they're providing $5 million in services, then the only way for them to be worth it is if they do cost less than $5 million. So you have an entity who costs $x, where x is less than 5,000,000. If you have that $5 million, you can hire that manager for $x, or you can hire a different manager for $y (either you combine the $5 million with your other funds, or y is also less than 5,000,000)- that's something you can do with the money that you can't do with the person. You can get a different manager, you can buy different assets; you can "consume" that resource in essentially whichever way you see fit, which you can't do with a campaign manager.

Or, I'll go for even another way to look at it- if the manager is worth $5 million in spending, you have to take into account that "$5 million in spending" is going to work out very differently depending on how you spend it. Advertisements won't have the same effect as field offices in swing states, which will work differently from a new strategist, which will be different from a new team of bundlers, which won't be the same as a campaign web site, and so on and so forth. What if that campaign manager is only useful for strategy, and what your campaign really needs at that moment is some field offices in Colorado? You can't do anything about it in that case- you can't turn that manager into those field offices. That campaign strategy might still have cost $5 million, but it would not be as useful to you as other things you could spend $5 million on. If you had $5 million in cash, you could do exactly that, or you could buy something else- it's a liquid good.

lutzj wrote:If you think the two are so analgous, would you also put a cap on the amount of talent people are able to utilize in assisting a campaign? After all, we wouldn't want those talented people to have undue influence in government; they might establish a bizarre meritocracy that marginalizes everybody who isn't good at campaigning!

The cap that already exists naturally and which I mentioned several times? Yes, I would support us not breaking the laws of time. If you think I said there isn't an inherent cap on the application of talent then you missed everything I said in that section.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby lutzj » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:21 pm UTC

Ghostbear wrote:I'm not sure how that changes the liquidity factor at all?.
'

It doesn't. My assertion is that liquidity does not matter much when assessing, if not the actual political effects of a donation, then the moral implications of a donation or the potential for political corruption arising from such a donation.

Ghostbear wrote:The cap that already exists naturally and which I mentioned several times? Yes, I would support us not breaking the laws of time. If you think I said there isn't an inherent cap on the application of talent then you missed everything I said in that section.


The cap on time doesn't stop one from being more talented and therefore making better use of that time.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Zamfir » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:39 pm UTC

lutzj wrote:
If you think the two are so analgous, would you also put a cap on the amount of talent people are able to utilize in assisting a campaign? After all, we wouldn't want those talented people to have undue influence in government; they might establish a bizarre meritocracy that marginalizes everybody who isn't good at campaigning!

I am still unsure where this line of argument is going to. Yes, there are people who have a disproportionate influence on political decisions. Politicians, for example. Yes, that is regularly a problem. It's unclear how it can be avoided, without making the decsion-making process unacceptably slow and complicated.

How does political influence of rich people help to improve that? They are not exactly a useful counterbalance to overly powerful politicians. Shifting power from political operators to rich people is jumping from the frying pan into the fire.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Ghostbear » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:43 pm UTC

lutzj wrote:It doesn't. My assertion is that liquidity does not matter much when assessing, if not the actual political effects of a donation, then the moral implications of a donation or the potential for political corruption arising from such a donation.

You didn't ask about the moral implications though:
Spoiler:
lutz wrote:You also still haven't shown a difference in the impact of 5 million talent-dollars versus 5 million dollar-dollars, which is all we really care about when we're worried about harmful impacts on our democracy.

lutz wrote:I'm not convinced any of this matters. $5 million is equivalent to $5 million of goods and services by definition.
[...]
Sorry if I wasn't clear; I'm wondering what you think the difference in impact is to a given candidate's campaign.

lutzj wrote:The cap on time doesn't stop one from being more talented and therefore making better use of that time.

Nor does the cap on donation limits stop someone from having money and therefor being able to donate closer to that cap. Imagine if the donation cap was larger than $2,500, say, $100,000. With that, someone like me is never going to approach reaching that limit. Someone like Warren Buffet will reach that limit easily. Having a good cap in place still allows for there to be a range of people's support while preventing the actions of a single individual from drowning out the actions of thousands (or more) of people.

I actually thought I did a decent job explaining it with my hypothetical scenario- did you have any troubles with parts of that?
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby sardia » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:32 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
lutzj wrote:
If you think the two are so analogous, would you also put a cap on the amount of talent people are able to utilize in assisting a campaign? After all, we wouldn't want those talented people to have undue influence in government; they might establish a bizarre meritocracy that marginalizes everybody who isn't good at campaigning!

I am still unsure where this line of argument is going to. Yes, there are people who have a disproportionate influence on political decisions. Politicians, for example. Yes, that is regularly a problem. It's unclear how it can be avoided, without making the decision-making process unacceptably slow and complicated.

How does political influence of rich people help to improve that? They are not exactly a useful counterbalance to overly powerful politicians. Shifting power from political operators to rich people is jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

Isn't the purpose of the US congress is to have adversarial competition for the limited resources of the government? The idea is that if factions are selfish and are only interested in their own goals, then you should have each group (congressional district) have its own representative faction. They can then fight for resources, and work together to achieve greater goals. The problem with rich people contributing infinite amounts vs everyone contributing a small amount is that it biases the factions towards achieving goals that are related to rich people. This means they ignore the needs of their districts and favor those who contribute the most. Notice how white collar crime is treated less severely than street crime. Or how the rich pay less taxes in capital gains than everyone else does in normal taxes.

If Congress is already under the influence of the rich due to their previous contributions, why would one want to make it easier for the rich to have a larger voice?
Edit: You probably already know this, but I already written this post. Not gonna waste a perfectly good post.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Garm » Tue Feb 28, 2012 6:18 pm UTC

An interesting thing is to compare the graph that details expenditures with the graph comparing the poll numbers of the two candidates.

http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.co ... e-to-call/

What gets me is the shocking mendacity of the remaining candidates and how they get off so easily in the press. I would like to think that candidates who had to lie as much as Romney and Santorum would not be considered fit for public office. It's pretty par for the course to distort your opponents record and it's essentially expected that campaign promises are nothing more than lipstick on a pig. Making up things about your opponent out of whole cloth has been sort of acceptable if it's a)obvious, and b) only done once or twice, and c) nothing big. Watching Santorum and Romney is really depressing.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby folkhero » Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:12 pm UTC

Malice wrote: But giving the wealthy/successful more control over the political process means giving them more control over the laws which tax and govern them--it's a "positive feedback loop" where more control gives them more control gives them more control. The more we can do to prevent that, the better for our society as a whole.
It's not as though the rich didn't already have a huge influence over policy and a feedback loop before Citizen's United, with all the lobbyists and revolving doors and ski trips for senators. As long as the government is collecting taxes, writing regulations, and giving out subsidies; people will find a way to get money into politics. Frankly, if the rich are going to use their money to influence policy, I'd prefer they do it by making arguments to voters to try to change their opinions, instead of using their money and connections in back-room type deals. While the campaign laws overturned by the Citizen's United case may have been doing some good to limit the influence of the wealthy in politics, but I think that that good is strongly outweighed by the restriction of free speech and the free press that those laws caused, Citizen's United being a perfect example.
Ghostbear wrote:Maybe if I do a dumb example: say you're really amazing at get out the vote efforts- 100 times better than a "normal" person...
You're just, again responding to a hypothetical with a different hypothetical. The hypothetical I came up with wasn't to show that a good campaign manager and $5 million dollars are exactly the same in all circumstances, so you can stop attacking it based on that. I brought up the brilliant campaign manager to demonstrate that the system allows a single person to have a hugely disproportionate influence and raise the question of whether that was undemocratic. Anyway, their are plenty of things that a brilliant campaign manager can do that a few dozen relative dullards couldn't, like create an effective architecture for the entire campaign or get an issue talked about on news programs and talk shows. These things aren't just a matter of (skill)*(time)
Ghostbear wrote:(Also, sorry for not replying to your earlier post- was not an intentional slight or anything)
No slight taken, but there's nothing stopping you from replying to those points now.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Malice » Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:04 am UTC

folkhero wrote:
Malice wrote: But giving the wealthy/successful more control over the political process means giving them more control over the laws which tax and govern them--it's a "positive feedback loop" where more control gives them more control gives them more control. The more we can do to prevent that, the better for our society as a whole.
It's not as though the rich didn't already have a huge influence over policy and a feedback loop before Citizen's United, with all the lobbyists and revolving doors and ski trips for senators. As long as the government is collecting taxes, writing regulations, and giving out subsidies; people will find a way to get money into politics.


Your argument is absurd here. It reduces to such absurdities as "people are gonna find ways to kill each other, so what's the point in taking away their missile launchers?" and "Wall Street is always going to find ways around regulations, so why not repeal the Glass-Steagall Act?" The fact that we possibly cannot eliminate corruption does not necessarily mean we should tolerate it, or cease to attempt to limit it, or even allow it to flourish in exchange for greater transparency. The status quo is always the result of many factors and variables which, when changed, could promote improvement. It seems foolish to let the perfect be the enemy of the possibly better.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Whammy » Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:54 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:You aren't purely looking at this issue purely as political science, you have brought up freedom of speech, you have given evidence of a minimal impact and then shrugged it off as forgettable. I took issue with that dismissal of the implications of your own evidence- if it does matter that little bit, then you have to ask yourself if you're OK with the full implications of that little bit. It's not something that should just be ignored- it is a question based on your own argument, your own evidence. If you don't like the question, then perhaps you should give up on the reasoning and data that spawned it? Just because you don't like a question does not make it a bad one.


The freedom of speech I brought up in a discussion of Citizen's United. Analysis of court cases within a context of rights is still a valid political science field. Granted though when I discussed that I was talking on a more opinion side of things, hence why I prefaced it with stating that I was going to do so.

Still though, the question of "what role does freedom of speech play in the Citizen's United case" and "what is the impact of money on a campaign" are two separate questions. The latter is a purely political science question; asking "Are you okay with people buying elections" moves off into a normative field that I feel is irrelevant to a discussion of whether or not money has an effect, or what the level of that affect is if there is one. Furthermore, if anything, it seems more like an attempt to try and smear me with an ad hominem attack by trying to attach a label to me.

Ghostbear wrote:Still missing the point: if the advertising is or can be effective (regardless of the reason) and that advertising costs money, then money does make a difference- because someone without the money to make those advertisements is going to not gain that effect, while someone with that money will gain that effect. It's a very basic scenario, but it illustrates the point quite succinctly. If all of these things (advertisements, campaign managers, phone banks, paid mailers, get out the vote efforts, strategists) matter (and they do matter!), and all of those things cost money (they do!), then how can money not matter? Money buys things that do!


And your missing the point that just because something is correlated with something, it means it caused it, and that just because something is related to one factor that it makes it a significant factor that "must be addressed". And more importantly, with money, that simply buying something means it is effectively being used. We have plenty examples in product campaigns of millions of dollars being spent on a new advertising campaign or a product that go absolutely nowhere, and the much of the same rules that apply to advertising products apply to politicians.

Furthermore, there's a degree of separation here that you seem to be missing that really makes a difference. Your view seems to be:

Money ====> Buy Stuff ====> Win Election

Sure, it looks nice and easy cause it gives a simple "bad guy" to assign blame for something, but it ignores massive amounts of other factors that, when put together, absolutely dwarf the money variable. The simplest level you could go would look more like this

Money======> Buy Advertising =======> Voters Watch Advertising =======> Voters Process Information in Advertising =======> Voters Opinion Influenced in Advertising =======> Voter's Behavior Influenced by Advertising =======> Voter's Prefer Candidate Who Made the Ad =======> Voter Votes for Candidate =======> Candidate Wins Election


Do you see how many intervening steps between Money and Win Election there are? And that's the simplest level I could go to; each one of those phases has their own factors and influence, and each of those factors and influences have factors and influences (some examples I described when I talked about negative advertising and Gingrich). And this is simply in just advertising! Now take any other thing you can use the money for (speeches, rallies, pamphlets, emails). And of course all that is going on within the context of every OTHER candidate doing the same thing.

Money buys ATTEMPTS to influence voters; it doesn't BUY influence. This is why we have examples of candidates spending less than others winning elections or getting close results, this is why we have examples of people spending more than others messing up elections. If anything, it's your insistence "it's the money" that is ignoring other factors and minimizing them.

Ghostbear wrote:You're making the same logical error here that I brought up at the top of my previous post- you're saying that because other things do influence an election, that money does not. That is fundamentally illogical. You can't just zero in on one fact (say, the economy) and say then that because some of the outcome can be explained by that, that other things (demographic turnout, candidate charisma, national mood, etc.) do not matter. I did not go out of my way to draw attention to that point in my past post because I thought it wasn't important- it is a very basic (yet significant) structural flaw in your arguments that has not gone away.

Yes, Gingrich has a lot of negatives to him, and those have hurt his campaign, but that does not change his lack of money from hurting his campaign as well. If Gingrich's campaign had another $100 million before Florida, do you think he would be doing, worse, or exactly the same as he is now? If Romney hadn't massively outspent Gingrich in Florida, do you think the outcome (or the magnitude of the victory/loss) would have been different?


How'd he get the $100 million? Cause as we've seen constant influxes of $5 million by one guy obviously isn't helping Gingrich that much; couldn't even turn the win in South Carolina into donations to continue furthering his campaign.

Ghostbear wrote:Earlier I gave you data that would exactly lead someone to expect that exact difference between Romney v. Gingrich in Florida and Romney v. Santorum in Michigan:
Image
Romney's money advantage in Michigan is significantly less than it was in other states, and look! The data we get following that knowledge (as you have just provided) lines up with exactly what you'd expect to have happen when money matters.

Again, look at the states Romney did well in, both in an absolute sense and relative to expectations- Iowa, New Hampshire, Florida, and Nevada- and then look at the states where he did poorly, also in an absolute sense and relative to expectations- South Carolina, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri- there is a very consistent pattern with those two groups. In one of those groups, Romney consistently had spending advantages over his rivals (and in his two best performances, demographic or regional advantages as well), In the other group, Romney consistently lacked that spending advantage over his rivals. This nomination is full of great examples of how money does matter- Romney is able to deflate or weaken opponents with his ability to purchase negative advertising, Adelson is able to single handedly keep Gingrich in the race, the frontrunner's best states are all ones that he invested the most money in, and his worst are the ones he did not over-invest in (relative to other candidates).


HOLD THE PHONE HERE.

I went and doubled check stuff on Iowa, and guess what; Romney didn't spend the most money there. Rick Perry did.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/buzzfeedpolitic ... ublicans-w

He did second worse in the primary, only in front of Michelle Bachmann

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sp ... cker/Iowa/

So not only does the Santorum tying with Romney break the "more money=winning pattern" you're claiming (cause with that large of a difference in spending Romney should have been crushing that guy if money won elections)..Romney didn't even SPEND THE MOST. The guy who did got 2nd to LAST, and Romney's spending was focused on taking down Gingrich (some of it was on Perry too, but it was mostly on Gingrich).


OH, and in South Carolina? Yeah...Romney spent twice as much as Gingrich
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/01/24/1 ... n-ads.html

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and his super-political action committees spent $4.7 million only to finish in second place. Romney spent twice as much as S.C. winner Newt Gingrich.


So South Carolina doesn't support your argument either as Romney spent twice as much as Gingrich did in South Carolina but still lost by 12 points (which is a larger win than the polls showed at a 5 point lead, so the negative advertising apparently didn't stick where it mattered; the ballot box).

Ghostbear wrote:Which also misses the point I was making. If you get a $5 million donation, and you want that $5 million campaign manager... you have the exact quantity of resources to hire them! If you get the donation and you wanted a $5 million debate coach- you still have the resources you'd need to hire them. If you get that money and wanted an advertising campaign in the Miami TV market- you can now buy $5 million worth of it. If you wanted the world's largest rubber duck made to mockingly look like one of your opponents, it's all yours. If you get the campaign manager, and you wanted the campaign manager, well, you're all set. If you got the campaign manager and wanted that debate coach, you wanted the advertising campaign, you wanted that rubber duck, then tough cookies, you can't have them. The liquidity is a huge asset to that donation- you can not rely on non-monetary contributions being what you want or need them to be (of equal worth), but you can rely on monetary contributions becoming what you want them to be (of equal worth).


Yeah, everyone else kind of has addressed this point so I'll let them keep going and focus on the stuff from above. I'm getting tired of these massive posts XD.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Zamfir » Thu Mar 01, 2012 6:46 am UTC

Money buys ATTEMPTS to influence voters; it doesn't BUY influence.

But influence on voters is not the only worry. At least as important is the influence on politicians. It's worrisome if politicians are unwilling to push for or support certain directions of political action, out of a fear to lose campaign money.

For that, it's not necessary that every campaign dollar always buys votes. Just that it matters often enough that most politicians feel the need for a well-filled campaign purse, and that they are not confident (before the attempt) to raise that from a broad range of small donors.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Ghostbear » Thu Mar 01, 2012 12:44 pm UTC

Whammy wrote:And your missing the point that just because something is correlated with something, it means it caused it, and that just because something is related to one factor that it makes it a significant factor that "must be addressed". And more importantly, with money, that simply buying something means it is effectively being used. We have plenty examples in product campaigns of millions of dollars being spent on a new advertising campaign or a product that go absolutely nowhere, and the much of the same rules that apply to advertising products apply to politicians.
[...]
Do you see how many intervening steps between Money and Win Election there are? And that's the simplest level I could go to; each one of those phases has their own factors and influence, and each of those factors and influences have factors and influences (some examples I described when I talked about negative advertising and Gingrich). And this is simply in just advertising! Now take any other thing you can use the money for (speeches, rallies, pamphlets, emails). And of course all that is going on within the context of every OTHER candidate doing the same thing.
[...]
Cause as we've seen constant influxes of $5 million by one guy obviously isn't helping Gingrich that much; couldn't even turn the win in South Carolina into donations to continue furthering his campaign.
[...]
I went and doubled check stuff on Iowa, and guess what; Romney didn't spend the most money there. Rick Perry did.
He did second worse in the primary, only in front of Michelle Bachmann
[...]
So South Carolina doesn't support your argument either as Romney spent twice as much as Gingrich did in South Carolina but still lost by 12 points (which is a larger win than the polls showed at a 5 point lead, so the negative advertising apparently didn't stick where it mattered; the ballot box).

I don't know how to say this any better than before: you are continually making the same logical error. Again, and again, and again, and then another time for good luck. All of your arguments, the entire basis of them, work under one and only one assumption about my argument: that I think money explains all of an election (which you do appear to think about my argument: "If anything, it's your insistence "it's the money" that is ignoring other factors and minimizing them."). I have never said that, I have in fact said otherwise several times. I have brought this point up at least twice before, and you have completely ignored it every time. I think this is a huge, fundamental flaw in your argument. Your argument is that money doesn't matter, but instead, you keep trying to show that money doesn't determine the outcome all by itself. Proving the latter does not prove the former. They are different arguments, and no matter how much evidence you provide for the latter, it will not make your claim of the former correct.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby lutzj » Thu Mar 01, 2012 1:08 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:
Money buys ATTEMPTS to influence voters; it doesn't BUY influence.

But influence on voters is not the only worry. At least as important is the influence on politicians. It's worrisome if politicians are unwilling to push for or support certain directions of political action, out of a fear to lose campaign money.

For that, it's not necessary that every campaign dollar always buys votes. Just that it matters often enough that most politicians feel the need for a well-filled campaign purse, and that they are not confident (before the attempt) to raise that from a broad range of small donors.


Wouldn't giving politicians more funding options help alleviate the power that funding has on them? Increasing the amount of money going into campaigns to the point where every major candidate can field some sort of campaign would liberate them from their current reliance on sponsors. It would also allow us to have independent candidates other than Ross Perot-style billionaires relying on their own funding; I think "only people who can convince rich people they are viable can run independently" is much better than "only rich people can run independently."
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Zamfir » Thu Mar 01, 2012 2:02 pm UTC

If you're right, than yes, the first is probably better than the second. But that feels somewhat defeatist to me. Is American politics really that screwed that the choice is fundamentally between people bought by rich people, and rich people themselves?

After all, voters aren't entirely powerless on this, they can vote against candidates if they don't trust them. You'd say that large amounts of support from corporate and and elite sources would be a major reason to mistrust a candidate. Transparency on these issues is pretty good in the US. I am sure there's also backdoor deals, but a lot of the money is spent out in the open.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby lutzj » Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:41 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:If you're right, than yes, the first is probably better than the second. But that feels somewhat defeatist to me. Is American politics really that screwed that the choice is fundamentally between people bought by rich people, and rich people themselves?


The money for campaigning has to come from somewhere. With requirements on transparency (I believe there's a loophole that lets certain capmaign organizations classify themselves as NGOs or something to avoid having to disclose donors; there's lots of room for improvement here) and a diverse, independent press, I don't think there is much harm in enabling as many people as possible to support campaigns. If you try and bar people from supporting political causes they use loopholes like PACs or, more dangerously, move their actions underground.

Public funding is an interesting alternative, but there's a whole other level of corruption that can occur when you're providing private citizens with millions of dollars in public funds for "campaigning." We don't have to worry as much about wealthy donors' money being wasted on frivolous campaigns or gilt furnishings on the Straight Talk Express.

After all, voters aren't entirely powerless on this, they can vote against candidates if they don't trust them. You'd say that large amounts of support from corporate and and elite sources would be a major reason to mistrust a candidate. Transparency on these issues is pretty good in the US. I am sure there's also backdoor deals, but a lot of the money is spent out in the open.


I agree. I think that Bill Gates giving millions of dollars to a campaign organization would be preferable to Bill Gates quietly giving the candidate's nephew a sinecure at Microsoft. The single most important way to prevent corruption is to enforce transparency and to have firebrands on cable news networks who will tirelessly point out how much money the opposing candidate received from Megacorp and Citizens for a Racially-Pure Tomrrow.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Ghostbear » Thu Mar 01, 2012 4:01 pm UTC

lutzj wrote:[...] I don't think there is much harm in enabling as many people as possible to support campaigns.

Isn't this a good reason to support spending limits? With spending limits, it means that campaigns have to be funded by a diverse group of people. Theoretically, any of the billionaires in the country could completely fund a major presidential bid by one of the major parties by themselves. Despite that, people like Obama and Elizabeth Warren love to boast about how many of their donations are $250 or less- highlighting the diversity of their money sources. If you have a limit, and prevent tings like super PACs from creating a large loophole in that limit, then you force candidates to have their funding come from many people.

My issue with the situation is that it creates a situation where politicians are very clearly held accountable to the groups that are willing to spend the most money. No matter their other flaws or desirable traits, a politician is going to need money to compete, and the more of it, the better. Allowing one of them to spend an extra $100 million or even just $10 million on a swing state could make the difference between winning the presidency or not- and they'll know exactly who put them in that situation, and those people will know it too- if the politician doesn't make them happy (the people be damned) they'll withhold their funding in the future. So it creates a situation where a politician must please those willing to spend big in order to stay competitive, instead of needing to please just the people at large.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Zamfir » Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:36 pm UTC

The money for campaigning has to come from somewhere

But does it? American campaign spending has grown at mind-boggling rates in the last 10, 20 years. That's partially what bothers me: whatever triggered the explosion, I presume it could happen here as well. It looks a lot like an arms race, with both sides needing ever more money because the other side has more.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Silknor » Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:26 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:American campaign spending has grown at mind-boggling rates in the last 10, 20 years.


This claim is commonly repeated but does not appear to be true on the federal level (as for state/local, I don't know):

But political spending is higher than it used to be, right? Well, yes and no. In raw dollars, federal campaign spending rose by roughly 450% between 1988 and 2008. Adjusting the numbers for inflation, however, and we find that the growth drops to 141%; adjust for inflation and growth in GDP, the increase is just 23% over 20 years.

Campaign spending as a percentage of GDP remained essentially unchanged between the 1947 passage of the Taft-Hartley Act (the statute prohibiting all corporate spending in elections that was struck down in the Citizens United case) and 2008. In the cycle ending in Nov. 2008, spending on American election campaigns was equal to approximately 0.3% of GDP. By contrast, Indonesians spent over 1% of their GDP in election campaigns ending in April 2009. Nations that are much poorer than the U.S., such as Venezuela, have historically spent more money per capita on elections than we do.
(Emphasis Added)
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 35326.html
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Zamfir » Thu Mar 01, 2012 9:50 pm UTC

There's something weird about those numbers. Nominal US GDP has roughly tripled since 1988, so if nominal campaign spending grew over 5-fold, how did they 23% ?
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Silknor » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:27 pm UTC

Hm, you're right that's wierd.

However since I don't have the campaign spending numbers, I can't say where the error was (eg. was 450% wrong or was 23% wrong, or did he use some different measure of inflation).
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Роберт » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:47 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:adjust for inflation and growth in GDP.

Maybe I'm a bit slow, but how do you adjust for both inflation and growth in GDP?
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Silknor » Thu Mar 01, 2012 10:53 pm UTC

You wouldn't adjust for both inflation and nominal GDP growth, but it would make sense to adjust for inflation and Real GDP growth (which is the same as saying adjust for nominal GDP growth). Usually the real is made explicit, but I guess that was overlooked here.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Whammy » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:39 am UTC

Ghostbear wrote:I don't know how to say this any better than before: you are continually making the same logical error. Again, and again, and again, and then another time for good luck. All of your arguments, the entire basis of them, work under one and only one assumption about my argument: that I think money explains all of an election (which you do appear to think about my argument: "If anything, it's your insistence "it's the money" that is ignoring other factors and minimizing them."). I have never said that, I have in fact said otherwise several times. I have brought this point up at least twice before, and you have completely ignored it every time. I think this is a huge, fundamental flaw in your argument. Your argument is that money doesn't matter, but instead, you keep trying to show that money doesn't determine the outcome all by itself. Proving the latter does not prove the former. They are different arguments, and no matter how much evidence you provide for the latter, it will not make your claim of the former correct.


I haven't made the claim it doesn't matter. I have made the claim that it's an insignificant factor. There is a difference in the meanings you know. The first is a ridiculous thing to say; the second accounts for money having some small effect, but that effect is indirect and is filtered through, and is dwarfed by, other, more important effects that can also negate the effect the money has in the first place. And those factors are primarily through media and other sources of speech, which brings in issues of, of course, freedom speech.

The problem is though, telling a group "No you can't spend $X millions putting out ads for a candidate you like/candidate you dislike/an issue you support/an issue you're against" while allowing, for example, Fox News to do the same thing with more subtlety by their conservative twist on the news shows just how empty the argument against it are. We already allow corporations to spend millions of dollars on political advertising and persuasion; it's called the media. Yet, if I was to suggest "we should not allow Fox News/CNN/MSNBC/etc etc. to do anything related to politics for fear of 'influencing the voters'", I'd be call a fascist/communist/insert-favorite-authoritarian-buzz-word, and rightfully so.

There is no difference between the Wall Street Journal publishing an editorial in favor of, say, Romney, or a SuperPAC releasing pamphlets supporting Romney. There is no difference between a SuperPAC running a pro-Gingrich ad and Fox News running a segment that puts Gingrich in a favorable light. There is no difference between a Santorum SuperPAC emailing you pro-Santorum emails and your daily emails from whatever news site you subscribe. There is no difference between a pro-Ron Paul website and CNNs homepage. We have newspapers that openly endorse candidates, and we've had that since Day One of our nation (trust me, if you think the media is bad now, it was much, much worse for most of our nation's history).The media can favor a candidate simply by focusing on them more than others (which the Ronpaul fans, rightly or wrongly, will tell you), or destroy them by bringing up dirt on them (and ever since Watergate, the media loves to do this and then add -Gate to the end of some word to show it off).

All Citizen's United did, in effect really, is remove the arbitrary difference between the media and "PACs" in terms of ability to use the media to influence voters.

Ghostbear wrote:My issue with the situation is that it creates a situation where politicians are very clearly held accountable to the groups that are willing to spend the most money. No matter their other flaws or desirable traits, a politician is going to need money to compete, and the more of it, the better. Allowing one of them to spend an extra $100 million or even just $10 million on a swing state could make the difference between winning the presidency or not- and they'll know exactly who put them in that situation, and those people will know it too- if the politician doesn't make them happy (the people be damned) they'll withhold their funding in the future. So it creates a situation where a politician must please those willing to spend big in order to stay competitive, instead of needing to please just the people at large.


XD XD XD. Seriously, you think if it came down between doing something a corporation wants and massive public uproar over it, a president would chose the corporation? Screw money, the president is going to lose because he pissed off the people who vote for him. And of course, that major dislike will probably also turn on the corporation (see Wall Street right now).

Lobbyists are most powerful times of influence on congressman and government officials are in areas where there is no public opinion on the matter (seriously, most people don't have strong opinions on, say, subsidies for corn farmers in order to encourage ethanol production). Over major, controversial policies, things get tougher because the media gets involved, and then the American public gets involved, and then pretty much massive campaigns to influence the voters occur. And if public opinion is swaying against the corporation's favored policy, the president is either going to have to make a compromise of some sort to at least get the grudging support, or side with the public. Because losing money hurts a little; losing the confidence of the people is suicide. Ask Andrew Johnson or Lyndon B Johnson or Richard Nixon.

Having the support of the people is what gives the President of the United States his legitimacy and his power; they are his constituency after all, and his ability to persuade them to support his policies is his most powerful tool. The cost of ignoring them is a lot more painful and costly then ignoring a corporation if the two groups are in conflict over a policy.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Malice » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:02 am UTC

Whammy wrote:Having the support of the people is what gives the President of the United States his legitimacy and his power; they are his constituency after all, and his ability to persuade them to support his policies is his most powerful tool. The cost of ignoring them is a lot more painful and costly then ignoring a corporation if the two groups are in conflict over a policy.


Doesn't the bolded suggest that we should be careful as to who has influence over the President's policies? I think it's ridiculous to suggest that public opinion on a particular issue will necessarily prevent the President from trying to sway that same opinion in the direction he (or his campaign donors) wish.

In addition, there are plenty of issues the public is often not aware of, not interested in, or on which the majority holds no strong opinion--issues which despite those things may be very important. The corn subsidies you mentioned on a Congressional level help to make high fructose corn syrup cheap, which incentivizes food manufacturers to put it in everything, which contributes to obesity, which contributes to rising health care costs, one of the most important issues we're facing today and one which does matter to the public. So if Monsanto or whoever is guiding the President's policy towards corn subsidies, it could have farther-reaching effects than you've acknowledged.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Whammy » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:34 am UTC

Malice wrote:
Whammy wrote:Having the support of the people is what gives the President of the United States his legitimacy and his power; they are his constituency after all, and his ability to persuade them to support his policies is his most powerful tool. The cost of ignoring them is a lot more painful and costly then ignoring a corporation if the two groups are in conflict over a policy.


Doesn't the bolded suggest that we should be careful as to who has influence over the President's policies? I think it's ridiculous to suggest that public opinion on a particular issue will necessarily prevent the President from trying to sway that same opinion in the direction he (or his campaign donors) wish.

In addition, there are plenty of issues the public is often not aware of, not interested in, or on which the majority holds no strong opinion--issues which despite those things may be very important. The corn subsidies you mentioned on a Congressional level help to make high fructose corn syrup cheap, which incentivizes food manufacturers to put it in everything, which contributes to obesity, which contributes to rising health care costs, one of the most important issues we're facing today and one which does matter to the public. So if Monsanto or whoever is guiding the President's policy towards corn subsidies, it could have farther-reaching effects than you've acknowledged.


Of course the issue with the bolding is it assumes that there is a problem to be fixed if the President is trying to use his tool of persuasion. Remember, the American public aren't some empty box waiting to be filled with ideas and so can't be manipulated as easily as people think they can, and Congress and the other branches will also be acting to get their own agendas and policies passed (we can look at the healthcare bill debate to see that), and then there will be a bunch of other interests groups that may have also donated to his campaign and expect some kind of support and so he has to deal with their competing claims as well. And if he finds that his attempts at persuasion aren't working, he'll have to again either compromise or back down (more likely the first cause then he can at least claim he 'won' something) . And based upon the President's past actions, the ability to persuade will be a lot different. At what point of time do you think Bush would have been more persuasive; right after 9/11, or right after the economy collapsed? Or we can look at Obama right now; he spent all of his persuasion ability to get that healthcare bill passed and is now struggling to get anything else he wants done and so is spending a lot of effort to try and get it back while dealing with a very hostile Congress. And what happens when

As for the second bolding, that is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed, but the response isn't to ban or limit lobbyists or speech by corporations, but to instead use those tools to try and educate and influence the opinion of the public. But sadly, there are just some things people just won't ever care about because it's too complex of an issue or not exciting enough. Oddly enough, the corn subsidy issue has been gaining some ground as a topic with the whole debate on energy and health like you mentioned and such, but I doubt the public will ever truly care about the intricate policy analysis regarding, say, salmon migration patterns or something, but there might be an organization that does *shrug*.




Also, on a completely random note, I feel sort of proud for having to cause a split off thread XD.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Malice » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:50 am UTC

Whammy wrote:
Malice wrote:
Whammy wrote:Having the support of the people is what gives the President of the United States his legitimacy and his power; they are his constituency after all, and his ability to persuade them to support his policies is his most powerful tool. The cost of ignoring them is a lot more painful and costly then ignoring a corporation if the two groups are in conflict over a policy.


Doesn't the bolded suggest that we should be careful as to who has influence over the President's policies? I think it's ridiculous to suggest that public opinion on a particular issue will necessarily prevent the President from trying to sway that same opinion in the direction he (or his campaign donors) wish.

In addition, there are plenty of issues the public is often not aware of, not interested in, or on which the majority holds no strong opinion--issues which despite those things may be very important. The corn subsidies you mentioned on a Congressional level help to make high fructose corn syrup cheap, which incentivizes food manufacturers to put it in everything, which contributes to obesity, which contributes to rising health care costs, one of the most important issues we're facing today and one which does matter to the public. So if Monsanto or whoever is guiding the President's policy towards corn subsidies, it could have farther-reaching effects than you've acknowledged.


Of course the issue with the bolding is it assumes that there is a problem to be fixed if the President is trying to use his tool of persuasion.


Not at all. I just want the President to use his influence to put forth policies he believes in without having to worry about what his corporate donors will think.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:01 pm UTC

Whammy wrote:I haven't made the claim it doesn't matter. I have made the claim that it's an insignificant factor. There is a difference in the meanings you know. The first is a ridiculous thing to say; the second accounts for money having some small effect, but that effect is indirect and is filtered through, and is dwarfed by, other, more important effects that can also negate the effect the money has in the first place. And those factors are primarily through media and other sources of speech, which brings in issues of, of course, freedom speech.

I do not think there is much of a meaningful difference between "Doesn't matter" and "Matters so little that we can assume it doesn't matter". Either way, your logic, evidence, and reasoning are all in support of a different argument than the one you are making. Showing examples of elections (whether for a nomination or a general election) where the candidate who spent less money won does nothing to prove that money is an insignificant factor. When campaigning for president, being a current or former governor is known to be a decent boon- yet pointing to candidates who have done well without being one does not prove that it doesn't matter (Bush Sr. vs. Dukakis, 1988). Having more experience in higher offices is also a positive influence on a presidential bid, but pointing out that Obama (2 years experience in the US senate) defeated McCain (who had spent over 20 years in the senate by that stage) does not prove it's insignificant. Being an incumbent is a factor in elections, yet noting that Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan does not make it insignificant. Money spent on a campaign is an important factor, and pointing out that Rick Perry did poorly in Iowa despite his spending does not prove otherwise. In all those instances, all the example to the contrary proves is that it isn't the sole overriding factor. Claiming that those examples prove that it is insignificant is irrational and logically destitute; it ignores all the other factors, and assumes that because we can explain away some of the election through their influence, that we can explain all of it.

Whammy wrote:The problem is though, telling a group "No you can't spend $X millions putting out ads for a candidate you like/candidate you dislike/an issue you support/an issue you're against" while allowing, for example, Fox News to do the same thing with more subtlety by their conservative twist on the news shows just how empty the argument against it are. We already allow corporations to spend millions of dollars on political advertising and persuasion; it's called the media. Yet, if I was to suggest "we should not allow Fox News/CNN/MSNBC/etc etc. to do anything related to politics for fear of 'influencing the voters'", I'd be call a fascist/communist/insert-favorite-authoritarian-buzz-word, and rightfully so.
[...]
All Citizen's United did, in effect really, is remove the arbitrary difference between the media and "PACs" in terms of ability to use the media to influence voters.

Didn't you just lambast me for deviating from the "political science" portion of this debate into the moral one? "I think allowing unlimited spending in elections is the right thing to do" is not a valid defense of "Money is an insignificant part of elections". Also, the last line (that I separated from the rest) is false: "speech" made by PACs still needs to be regulated in a way that the media does not. It is still classified as political speech, and still receives oversight (as flawed and full of loopholes as it is) to ensure there is no coordination between them and campaigns.

Whammy wrote:XD XD XD. Seriously, you think if it came down between doing something a corporation wants and massive public uproar over it, a president would chose the corporation? Screw money, the president is going to lose because he pissed off the people who vote for him. And of course, that major dislike will probably also turn on the corporation (see Wall Street right now).

Lobbyists are most powerful times of influence on congressman and government officials are in areas where there is no public opinion on the matter (seriously, most people don't have strong opinions on, say, subsidies for corn farmers in order to encourage ethanol production).
[...]
Having the support of the people is what gives the President of the United States his legitimacy and his power; they are his constituency after all, and his ability to persuade them to support his policies is his most powerful tool. The cost of ignoring them is a lot more painful and costly then ignoring a corporation if the two groups are in conflict over a policy.

Your point doesn't become any more true by prefacing it with mocking emoticons. Do you think politicians aren't influenced by people with money? Do you seriously think think that the issues that the electorate doesn't care enough about to change their vote over are unimportant to the well being of our nation? Nobody gives a shit about who the ambassador(s) to Spain is, yet who that person is does matter. The corn subsidies are a perfect example of something that influential people with money are able to get that hurt this nation, yet that voters are unable to get enraged enough about to change their vote over. Did you miss those times Bush gave favored government contracts to Halliburton? Or what about the whole SOPA/PIPA debate- do you honestly think that Lamar Smith woke up one day and said "By golly, we need to protect copyright!" or do you think he received lots of donations from the entertainment industry? Do you think congress proposed the Copyright Term Extension Act all on its own, or do you think it was lobbied by Disney? I am unable to comprehend how you can just sweep all of that influence under the rug as inconsequential.
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Silknor » Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:44 pm UTC

Whammy wrote:All Citizen's United did, in effect really, is remove the arbitrary difference between the media and "PACs" in terms of ability to use the media to influence voters.


I liked your post (and it paralleled some of the thinking in the Citizen's United majority opinion), but this statement is wrong in technical (but important) ways. Citizen's United allowed corporations, unions, and other groups to give unlimited funds to independent expenditure organizations (so called SuperPACs). Citizen's United didn't affect the ability of SuperPACs to purchase ad time (or accept unlimited donations from individuals). Also, PACs refers to a very different organization than SuperPAC (which technically aren't PACs). PACs can give directly to candidates (it's capped at 5k), and donations to PACs are also capped.

Ghostbear wrote:Or what about the whole SOPA/PIPA debate- do you honestly think that Lamar Smith woke up one day and said "By golly, we need to protect copyright!" or do you think he received lots of donations from the entertainment industry?


While I couldn't comment on the specifics of this example, as a general point it is often implied that corporate expenditures cause policy positions. While no doubt this is true to some extent (particularly on issues where neither the elected official in question nor the public really cares), proponents of this view often neglect that much of the causation likely flows in reverse: supporters of a particular policy give to candidates to support those policies. This is quite obvious at the individual level (if you gave to Obama in the 2008 general election, it's probably because you preferred him to McCain, not because you were hoping your donation would swing his position on a particular issue), yet often overlooked when it comes to corporate donations. And I'll just add that if corporations are buying elections/positions, they're getting a really good deal, and politicians are selling out for way too cheap:

For example, the researchers found that even though the U.S. government spent $134 billion on defense procurement contracts, military suppliers spent just $10.6 million on electoral politics. Agribusinesses spent $3.3 million on electoral politics, while the government spent over $22 billion on agricultural loans and price supports. Oil and gas companies spent $33.6 million on politics, despite government subsidies of $1.7 billion.

At first glance, some will find this disturbing—look how much business can buy for relatively small amounts of political spending. But Prof. Ansolabehere and his colleagues point out that the opposite is true. If these corporate political expenditures were really "investments," the return is so enormous that we would expect far more money to be spent on electoral activity. For example, every $192,000 in political expenditures by the sugar industry appears to result in $5 billion in sugar subsidies. But if this "investment" were really yielding such returns, surely firms would devote more resources to it.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142 ... 35326.html
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Re: U.S. Republican Primary

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Mar 02, 2012 3:54 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:While I couldn't comment on the specifics of this example, as a general point it is often implied that corporate expenditures cause policy positions. While no doubt this is true to some extent (particularly on issues where neither the elected official in question nor the public really cares), proponents of this view often neglect that much of the causation likely flows in reverse: supporters of a particular policy give to candidates to support those policies. This is quite obvious at the individual level (if you gave to Obama in the 2008 general election, it's probably because you preferred him to McCain, not because you were hoping your donation would swing his position on a particular issue), yet often overlooked when it comes to corporate donations.

This is true, but it does not remove the influence of money: it limits the ability of that politician to change their view on the matter, and causes a structural preference for the politicians that do support those views. If every candidate who supports a specific position gets donations for their campaign, then it's tilting the political balance towards politicians who support that position. Whether they've been "persuaded" to support it or do so naturally is irrelevant; the money spent on people who support that issue is influencing the behavior of the government.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Silknor » Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:23 pm UTC

This is all true, even if the magnitude of the impact is quite debatable. And this is going to be true not just for money but also for any in-kind contributions to a campaign as well. If one issue has more passionate supporters than opponents, supporters who are willing to make calls and canvas on behalf of candidates who support their cause, then there will be a structural tilt towards their position, ceteris paribus.

And short of a major constitutional amendment, this is not going to change. Around the margins it can be twerked (disclosure, caps on independent expenditure donations by, at the minimum, corporations and unions, more public funding for candidates), but money is not getting out of politics.

And it's not so clear this is much of a bad thing. National campaign finance reforms enacted as legislation instead of a constitutional amendment are likely to protect incumbent politicians at least somewhat (be it viability requirements for public funds or contribution limits that make the free media elected officials get as part of their official duties more valuable). An impact of strict contribution/independent expenditure limits is to give the media greater influence (interesting side note, the Washington Post now gets more revenue from its investments in Kaplan's education programs than from it's media business), and to give self-funders an even greater advantage over aspiring elected officials of more moderate means.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Zamfir » Fri Mar 02, 2012 4:45 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:
For example, the researchers found that even though the U.S. government spent $134 billion on defense procurement contracts, military suppliers spent just $10.6 million on electoral politics. Agribusinesses spent $3.3 million on electoral politics, while the government spent over $22 billion on agricultural loans and price supports. Oil and gas companies spent $33.6 million on politics, despite government subsidies of $1.7 billion.

At first glance, some will find this disturbing—look how much business can buy for relatively small amounts of political spending. But Prof. Ansolabehere and his colleagues point out that the opposite is true. If these corporate political expenditures were really "investments," the return is so enormous that we would expect far more money to be spent on electoral activity. For example, every $192,000 in political expenditures by the sugar industry appears to result in $5 billion in sugar subsidies. But if this "investment" were really yielding such returns, surely firms would devote more resources to it.

I am not sure about this point. Donations and personal bribes are mostly limited by public opinion. The company can't spend, and politicians can't accept too much and too openly. That's why you don't wire cash to their accounts, but hire them for speaker fees, or employ them after their career, etc. Ways to increase the amount of money you can spend before the public-outrage barrier is reached.

The typical campaign donation of military firms is to move production to a politically expedient location. That concerns far larger amounts of money, but public acceptance is obviously higher.

And "too much" is not fixed. In some places and times a donation of a few million of dollars means a scandal with jail time for all involved, in other places the people will laugh about the naive idea that a few million was going to buy you something.

Surely you'd like to stay close to the first? The less money there is involved, the freeer politicians are to listen to other interests. But if their competition can fill its campaign chest to a certain amount without damaging their public image, then even morallyupright politicians have to start listening more to the people who will give them that kind of money in return for listening. And the more they need to raise, the more they will have to listen.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Silknor » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:00 pm UTC

If you're right that donations and "personal bribes" (assuming you're referring to something not illegal, bribes seems like a strange word choice), are mostly limited by public opinion, that sounds like a good reason not to worry too much about contribution/expenditure limits, as long as things are well disclosed then there's little problem.

The less money there is involved, the freeer politicians are to listen to other interests. But if their competition can fill its campaign chest to a certain amount without damaging their public image, then even morallyupright politicians have to start listening more to the people who will give them money in return for listening. And the more they need to raise, the more they will have to listen.


This is true in abstract but glazes over the problems with specific means of reducing the amount of money in politics. Would it be nice if money had less of an impact on politics? Absolutely. But that's not enough to make a particular reform a good one (nor does a particular reform being a good idea means it clears the First Amendment). Also I'd point out that it isn't so much a question of how much money is involved in isolation, but more of the value of that money. The practical impacts of people becoming less influenced by political ads are similar to the impact of there being less money available for ads.
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Re: Campaign funding (split from Republican primary thread)

Postby Ghostbear » Fri Mar 02, 2012 5:30 pm UTC

Silknor wrote:This is all true, even if the magnitude of the impact is quite debatable. And this is going to be true not just for money but also for any in-kind contributions to a campaign as well. If one issue has more passionate supporters than opponents, supporters who are willing to make calls and canvas on behalf of candidates who support their cause, then there will be a structural tilt towards their position, ceteris paribus.

The issue with this comparison, as I've tried (but apparently failed) to allude to before, is that money is both a very measurable resource ("What have you done for me lately?" "I gave you $5 million!" "Oh yeah") and something that is able to be overwhelmingly concentrated in a small handful of people. For someone with a net worth of 8 or more figures, donating a few million dollars to a campaign has very little cost to them- in time, in their lifestyle, or similar- yet for anyone, no matter who they are, making calls, canvasing, or even strategizing for a candidate is going to have a cost for them, in that it takes up lots of time. Those are also all much harder to measure and to know what that contribution gave over what you had before- someone making 1,000 phone calls for you could do nothing for you, or they could gain you 1,000 votes. Comparatively, you'll know (or be able to know) exactly what money donated to you has gained you. As well, due to the physical limitations on those other contributions, in many ways (especially ones such as phone callers or canvasers) they act more like a microcosm of the whole democratic process. Those acts and money are alike in that they're contributions, but dissimilar in the manner and capacity of their influence on politics.

Silknor wrote:If you're right that donations and "personal bribes" (assuming you're referring to something not illegal, bribes seems like a strange word choice), are mostly limited by public opinion, that sounds like a good reason not to worry too much about contribution/expenditure limits, as long as things are well disclosed then there's little problem.

Only if you assume that the manner in which that outrage comes to exist is unchanged. Considering the relative lack of outrage over people like Adelson, Fries, or Simmons in this cycle so far, I think we can safely assume that the "outrage-bar" has been raised.

Silknor wrote:This is true in abstract but glazes over the problems with specific means of reducing the amount of money in politics.

There are problems, this is true, but I've never felt that because something isn't easy, that we should accept it the way it is.
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