October 27, 2014

Tell me if Li'l Luke's intro to the money in politics segment on Sunday's Meet the Press doesn't sound like an intro to a football game.

(drum roll, please....)

On the right, Charles and David Koch, the brothers who run Koch Industries, America's second largest private company. Net worth, $41.9 billion, each. Americans for Prosperity, just one of several Koch-backed groups, has pledged to spend at least $125 million this year. And they have offices in more than 30 states. On the left, newcomer Tom Steyer. Net worth, $1.6 billion. He's already donated at least $58 million in support of candidates with strong records on climate change.

Gee, golly. You'd think from the sound of it that there was something like equivalence there.

Let me see. Koch Brothers, total net worth between just two of them (there's a third who funds right wing causes too, but not like the other two): $83.8 billion.

Tom Steyer: Total net worth $1.6 billion. Not that it isn't a lot of money. It is. But still. Steyer is worth 2 percent -- that's TWO percent -- of what the Kochs are, and he is a one-issue funder. I'm not sniffling at it. But it's hardly equivalent. Hardly.

Li'l Luke knows it, so he brings in that stalwart liberal Michael Bloomberg, too.

Last month, Steyer PAC began hauling a wooden ark on wheels across Florida, where he's focusing his efforts on retiring Governor Rick Scott. But the Koch brothers, through a number of outside groups, with mundane if not agreeable-sounding names, like Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners, Concerned Veterans for America, and Generation Opportunity, are outspending Steyer by nearly five to one on ads in the Senate battleground states.

In the center, former New York City governor Michael Bloomberg. Net worth, $34 billion. He pledged to spend $50 million to support gun control legislation. And became a convenient punching bag for red state Democrats.

Are you getting the theme here? It's a game, folks. It's the Follow the Money game, hosted by Li'l Luke Russert and his faithful sidekick Chuck Todd.

If they could have a football field as a prop where they moved players around, it would have been perfect for this segment. But no, because they are Very Serious Journalists, don't you know?

Here's some more sideline announcing:

Now Bloomberg says he'll spend $25 million more backing centrists. And other big spenders, Sheldon Adelson and Joe Ricketts on the right, George Soros on the left, even Mark Zuckerberg, and we could see an election that costs about $44 a vote. The financial arms race has become so crazy that one campaign reform advocate decided to fight fire with fire. He formed the anti-super PAC super PAC.

If you facepalmed at George Soros' name, join the crowd. Soros hasn't funded Democrats since 2006, but maybe Li'l Luke sneaks a look at Faux News or Glenn Beck for his information?

That last reference is to Lawrence Lessig's Mayday PAC. They raised a lot of Silicon Valley billionaire money mixed with small donors and then made the billionaires angry by using it against billionaire-backed candidates. Oh, the irony.

Back to the Midterm Game. After some concern trolling about voters he's spoken to on the Chuck Todd Bus Tour (seriously, WTF?), Chuck pronounces the two-party system dead on arrival. Sort of.

It's totally so, it feels like the cold war. I mean, it is a cold, political war, and we're going down a road where we're just, it's going to destroy the two-party system--

Well, not really, Chuck. We're going to have two parties. It's just going to be the parties of Major Billionaires and Minor Billionaires. Because our Supreme Court has ruled from on high that money is speech and speech isn't free anymore. That speech money is what keeps your network on the air, and those Billionaire Bucks mean you get a nice check with some decent perks, including a Bus Tour, and health benefits, a 401(k) plan and..well...Li'l Luke to pal around with.

Chuck and Li'l Luke are focused solely on "the game," and in their rule book, the only money that counts is the money spent on ads in the various states. But it's hardly the only money the right wing billionaires have spent.

Take, for example, the smartphone app True the Vote is out there pimping, so people can report suspicious black and brown voters in real time on Election Day. I like to call that app iSuppress™. Or alternatively, iFraud™. Big bucks went into that development, I'm sure.

There are the Facebook campaigns, the Twitter campaigns, and of course, the Bus Tours, like the one to prop up Mitch McConnell in Kentucky. The microtargeting database development that the Kochs have poured millions into since 2010. All of those things cost money too.

Oh, and the litigation! We can't forget the litigation. That's a Big Billionaire Bucks item, intended to make sure as many Democratic voters as possible do not vote while Republicans crawl up into lady parts and inspect at will. Millions and millions going toward litigation. Millions not only from the Kochs, but Sheldon Adelson and Joe Ricketts and Peter Thiel and on and on and on.

There is no equivalence.

When it's all added up, I'm guessing our unemployment rate is low because political consultants on the right are counting on full employment from the midterms through the 2016 general. All that money, buying our politics.

Ok, I'm turning the snark off for a minute. It's not a game, no matter what Li'l Luke and his pal Chuck think it is. For a lot of us, it's our damn lives. It's whether we will continue to have access to affordable health care, and whether our Social Security will be there for us and whether there will ever be a damn job we can hope to get. It's not a game, and the United States shouldn't become Kansas.

It would be nice if just once they could remember that real people's lives are affected by what goes on. Instead, we get this from Chuck:

You've seen the horse race results in the key Senate states...

It's not a horse race.

It's our government.

It deserves to be treated seriously and respectfully.

President Obama is not on the ballot.

People's lives hang in the balance.

If Chuck and Li'l Luke can't grok that, they need to sit down and let the adults take over.

Can you help us out?

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