Frank Rich, depressingly, notes:
Big money rains down on the "bottom up" Tea Party insurgency through phantom front organizations (Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Job Security) that exploit legal loopholes to keep their sugar daddies' names secret. Reporters at The Times and The Washington Post, among others, have lately made real strides in explaining how the game works. But we still don't know the identities of most of those anonymous donors.
This New York Times column comes one day after a report on NPR about the flood of political ads made possible by the execrable, democracy-killing Citizens United decision by the Once-Supreme Court. Corporations (and unions) are now free to funnel essentially unlimited amounts of money into ads, most of which are dedicated to describing candidates in what may safely be said to be disparaging terms.
The sources of such ads need not be identified as being real-life individuals or corporations (or unions). Instead, they're frequently disguised by anodyne-sounding organizational names--organizations that often consist of nothing more than a recently-created web site. Like virtual particles, they come into existence for the brief span of a specific campaign, after which they disappear. And yes, while "both sides do it," the estimated disparity in the numbers of who does what is, according to Peter Overby on Weekend All Things Considered, approximately seven to one, Republicans over Dems.
The implications of this plague are grim--i.e., a government increasingly owned by an untouchable plutocracy that will do all it can to channel the country's wealth to itself, while the rest of us engage in levelheaded debates and manic fistfights over the crumbs. So let's not think about them! Instead, let's have some fun mounting a spirited (if doomed) effort to resist this fatal corruption of the electoral process.
Say your name is "Dave Liberal," and you're running for the Senate against shadily-funded plutocrat-favorite Jason Putz. Suddenly you find yourself under attack from an organization called Concerned Americans for a Constitutional America. How to fight back?
Here's how: with advertising ju-jitsu. Use the secrecy and opacity of the attack ads' source against your opponent. All you'll need, in addition to the money to create and run your counter-ad, is a web site dedicated to your pet. It doesn't have to be fancy--just a few photos of the dog or cat, ideally being coddled by some cute kids, if you have access to any. If you don't have a pet, get a damn goldfish and have your twenty-something aides create a web site for that.
But enough about goldfish. Let's say you have a dog. Your ad, then, goes like this:
ANNOUNCER (V/O; insinuating, skeptical, menacing):
"Jason Putz is being promoted by something called Concerned Americans for a Constitutional America. Ever hear of it? Neither have we. Where, really, is their money coming from? Who is Jason Putz working for? Oh, sure, Concerned Americans for a Constitutional America has a web site. But so what? Everyone has a web site. Dave Liberal's DOG has a web site. (www.daveliberalsdog.com).
"Jason Putz will tell you this is all perfectly legal. And it is. But a lot of things are legal. Lying to everyone you know is "legal." It's "legal" to betray your family. It's "legal" to cheat on your spouse. If Jason Putz had committed a series of gruesome murders, it would be "legal" for him to refuse to answer questions about it. Is this who (YOUR STATE) wants representing it in Washington? Once he gets there, who will Jason Putz be working for? You? Or the moneymen hiding behind his ads?
"Don't let him get away with it. Vote for Dave Liberal. He makes his own ads. And he won't work for anyone except you."
Of course, in order to do this, you or your staff will have to monitor the TV and radio broadcasts and keep an eye or ear out for those ads. That will mean watching and listening to a lot of programming you otherwise wouldn't get near with a ten-foot antenna. Well, tough. It's politics. You knew when you got into it that it would be a dirty, demeaning business.