While I agree with Charlie’s post from yesterday about the relevance of the Republican Party in light of Jack Kingston’s loss to David Perdue in the Senate runoff, I want to expand a bit on some of the points he made.
Charlie points out that Kingston earned the endorsements of “the leaders of Georgia’s most prominent Tea Party organization and RedState.com Editor & WSB radio Host Erick Erickson.” Yet, despite that, I think it was the Tea Party rank and file that contributed the most to David Perdue’s margin of victory. The Perdue campaign targeted this group, whose members have spent a great deal of time going after Republicans in Washington they perceive as too closely tied to the establishment.
The takeaway here might be that the Tea Party is not a single organization operating within–and sometimes outside of–the GOP establishment. Debbie Dooley has consistently made this point, and when she endorsed Jack Kingston, she noted that the was doing it as a “personal endorsement” rather than on behalf of the Tea Party. It should also be a reminder that when you hear, “The Tea Party supports…,” or someone claims to he “the Tea Party candidate,” you might want to take it with a grain of salt.
There is another factor that contributed to David Perdue’s victory. Charlie hits the nail on the head here: “Money from an outsider can trump all of that, ignoring all GOP related activities as white noise.”
The Kingston campaign raised north of $7.4 million in its bid to make Jack the GOP nominee. Much of that money came from the deep pockets of the GOP establishment that supported him. That put Team Perdue at a fundraising disadvantage, and the candidate had to reach into his own pocket in order to remain competitive.
Both candidates had outside help. Jack received much of his outside support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a traditional ally of the GOP establishment. David’s campaign had help from various Super PACS, such as the Citizens for Working America PAC, which during this cycle was funded by several 501-C4 nonprofits whose donors are able to remain a secret.
The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United case opened the door for this type of election financing. At the time, it was seen as benefiting Republicans. President Obama went as far as to publicly chide Chief Justice John Roberts about the decision in his first State of the Union address.
Just this week, the New York Times devoted two front page stories to the issue of outside spending in elections. On Monday it lamented the influence of Super PAC money in political advertising. Today’s story talks about a new Super PAC named Mayday that is being formed to counteract the influence of big money PACs in elections.
Yesterday, the Center for Responsive Politics published a long piece that probes the relationships between the Super PACs and individuals supporting the Perdue campaign. It’s worth your time to read it.
There was a time when party elders picked their candidates in smoke filled rooms. Forty years ago, that began to change, when primary elections and the popular vote decided who the candidate might be. Because party insiders tended to hold the purse strings, they were able to fund the candidate they thought would be the best choice for the nomination. Today, Super PACS control much of the funding.
The way candidates and campaigns are financed has been a concern long before James McCord and four accomplices broke into the DNC offices at the Watergate office building in 1972. That incident led to the campaign finance reforms of the 1970s. When President Bush signed the McCain-Feingold Bill twelve years ago, he angered many Republicans because it limited the ability of political parties to raise funds by decreasing the role of soft money in elections.
Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee and the Louisiana Republican Party filed a federal lawsuit to overturn it.
Regulating the way campaigns are financed is like playing whack-a-mole. The law closes one avenue, but opens up another loophole. Court decisions change the meaning of the law.
I’m willing to bet the discussion about how campaigns are funded will continue for a long time.