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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Heath: Behind the GOP’s ‘Billionaire Primary’

In his Campaign for America’s Future post, “The GOP Sugar Daddies of 2016,” Terrance Heath notes “When Republicans finally choose their nominee for president, he or she will be already bought and paid for by one or more of the GOP sugar daddies of the 2016 election.” Heath has some observations about the cost of presidential campaigns and why so many Republican candidates think they can launch one nonetheless:

Getting a viable primary campaign off is so prohibitively expensive that almost none of the 15 current GOP candidates could afford to do it on their own. Fortune magazine called it a “$50 million vanity project.” That’s roughly the cost just to launch a primary campaign, and keep it going long enough to have an impact. That’s a grand total of about $750 million for the entire GOP field. This estimate may be too low, given that GOP candidates will have to spend more on media, to make themselves heard in such a crowded field.
So, why are there so many GOP candidates? We have the billionaire GOP sugar daddies of 2016 to thank for that. Since Citizens United opened the door to super PACs, which can collect unlimited donations from individuals and corporations, an influx of new Republican donors and bundlers has driven a money boom on the right.

Heath’s post is accompanied by a video clip to bring the issue into focus:

Heath provides a list of recent GOP sugar-daddies, with their income source, net worth and the surnames of Republican presidential candidates they are supporting:
Sheldon Adelson; Casino tycoon; $22.9 Billion; Christie, Rubio (Maybe)
Norman Braman; Car dealer, Philadelphia Eagles Owner; $1.88 Billion; Rubio
Harlan Crow; Real estate, Crow Holdings CEO; Hundreds of millions; Christie
Larry Ellison; Oracle founder; $54 Billion; Rubio, Paul
Foster Friess; Mutual fund financier; $350 Million; Santorum
Ken Griffin; Citadel hedge fund founder; est. $4.4 billion; Walker
David and Charles Koch; $40.7 billion each; $81.4 billion combined; Bush, Cruz, Paul, Rubio, Walker
Robert Mercer; hedge fund magnate; $23 billion; Cruz
Robert Rowling; TRT Holdings founder $5.5 billion; Cruz
So what do the Republicans’ sugar daddies get for their largess? Heath explains:

The GOP’s sugar daddies are buying influence over lawmakers, according to a study by Martin Gilens, professor of politics at Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page, professor of decision making at Northwestern University. After examining how politicians handled 1,779 issues, Gilens and Page found that, “… economic elites stand out as quite influential – more so than any other set of actors studied here – in the making of U.S. public policy.” Giles and Page conclude: “In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes.” Giles and Page echo a 2014 joint Yale/University of California at Berkeley study, which found that campaign donors are more likely than constituents to get meetings with lawmakers.
…The GOP candidates, however, all seem to be saying the same thing, because they are all appealing to the same set of billionaires who all want the same things: financial deregulation that lets them further pad their bottom line, corporate tax cuts, tax “reforms” that favor the wealthy, and so on. The GOP sugar daddies are willing to spend lots of money to get what they want. Now they can, until they have enough lawmakers in their pockets to get what they’re paying for.

No matter who the GOP nominates after the billionaire primary, the nominee’s agenda will be basically the same — policies which fatten the assets of the super-rich at the expense of the middle class. That’s a key part of the message Democrats must get across to end the Republican blockade and move America forward.

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