The Inauguration: Brought to you by the Wealthy

Barack Obama's Inauguration was paid for by a small number of wealthy donors and fundraisers

While many of us spent today watching Obama’s inauguration, few news sources have reported on where the money for the lavish inauguration festivities comes from. Contrary to what it may seem, it is not public money. Rather, inauguration funds are raised by the incoming administration.

Positive Steps towards Transparency

As he did in his presidential campaign, Obama banned corporate and lobbyist funding for his inauguration. He also greatly expanded disclosure of donor information and improved transparency of what has often been in the past a closed, unregulated process. He also set voluntary limits of $50,000 for individual contributions and $300,000 for bundled contributions.

However, while Obama’s disclosure deserves praise, it does not mask the fact that the inauguration was paid for largely by wealthy donors hoping for a final chance to buy influence with the new administration.

Despite Transparency, Inauguration Still Paid for by a Handful of Wealthy Donors

The group Public Citizen reports that 80% of Obama’s total inauguration contributions ($35.3 million) came from just 211 individual “bundlers.” “Bundlers” are well-connected fundraisers–often corporate executives, lawyers, or other individuals with position of power–who collect contributions from individuals and deliver them to the inaugural committee. Of the 5,632 reported contributions to the inaugural committee, only 113 were “small” contributions of $200.

Among those donating were prominent Wall Street executives:

  • Louis Susman, vice chairman of Citigroup Corporate and Investment Banking and managing director, vice chairman of investment banking, Citigroup ($300,000)
  • Mark Gilbert, senior executive, Lehman Brothers ($185,000)
  • Robert Wolf, chairman and CEO, UBS Americas ($100,000)
  • Jennifer Scully, vice president, private wealth management, Goldman Sachs ($100,000)
  • Bruce Heyman, managing director of the Private Wealth Management Group, Midwest region, Goldman Sachs ($50,000)
  • Kobi Brinson, senior vice president and assistant general counsel, Wachovia ($35,000)

Inaugural Donations Bring Increased Access

Public Citizen president Joan Claybrook stated in a news release, “The inauguration is the last chance for big donors to throw money at the feet of the president.” As shown above, wealthy donors are taking this seriously, and in many ways, Obama is accommodating their desires.

While Obama has said that inauguration donors will not have undue influence, the money donated to the inauguration does buy increased access. Yesterday, USA Today reported that:

“Contributors who gave at least $10,000 to help underwrite the inauguration received two tickets to witness the Democrat take the oath of office, watch the Inaugural Parade and party at one of the 10 black-tie balls attended by Obama and his wife, Michelle. Those who gave $50,000 — or raised $300,000 from other contributors — received a total of four tickets to official inaugural activities.

Donors also were invited to private gatherings, such as a Sunday “welcome brunch” with an entertainment lineup that included singer Carole King and a Sunday evening reception organized by Penny Pritzker, a Chicago hotel executive who was Obama’s top campaign fundraiser. Today, donors can attend a breakfast briefing with policymakers, including Tom Daschle, Obama’s pick to run the Health and Human Services Department.”

In the article, Public Citizen research Alexander Cohen called the donor benefits “unseemly.”

In response, an Obama spokeswoman said donors will not have undue sway: “”The president-elect made it clear throughout his campaign that the people who have power in his campaign are the grass-roots.”

Is Barack Obama “black” enough?

by D. John Lee, Ph.D., Originally published in November 2007, Updated in November of 2008

Formally or anthropologically speaking, my cultural background is best described as “Canadian Chinese.” The dominant language in Canada when I was being raised was British English. I grew up hearing, speaking, and learning to communicate in the Queen’s English. I also grew up participating in and being formed by many “Canadian” cultural events: hockey, entertainment, media, etc. At the same time, my “Chinese Canadian” father and “Canadian Chinese” mother determined that my brother and I would eat rice everyday and regularly visit our Cantonese Chinese speaking relatives. So, my cultural background is a mixture of Canadian and Chinese norms and traditions. I am referred to by some Chinese as a “corrupted Chinese” (English translation) because I cannot speak Chinese. That is, if I was to run for political office, many “Asians” would criticize me as not being “Asian enough” because of my cultural background (i.e. English is my 1st language, not Chinese or some other “Asian” language). These critics would be confusing my cultural background with how I am racially identified. They would be assuming that if I am racially identified as “Asian” I should have been primarily raised in and/or currently participating in some “Asian” culture. (Note that making this assumption is an example of racial stereotyping: i.e. assuming that a person’s phenotype (race) is indicative of his or her’s culture: i..e. “You are Asian, therefore you must practice the martial arts.”)

Racially speaking, I am identified as an “Asian” by the “white” majority. The “white” majority doesn’t know, nor do they care, that there are several hundred cultures subsumed under their racial label of “Asian” (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, etc.). The “white” majority is so firmly racialized that they have a difficult time separating their racial identification from their cultural traditions. For example, most “white” American Christians think of their Christianity as being “white” when in fact Jesus Christ never identified himself as “white” and there are more non-white Christians in the world than there are “white” Christians. David Duke, a white KKK racist and presidential candidate several years ago, complained that Kwanza could be celebrated in public schools but Christmas could not, implying that Christianity was the “white” race’s religion. Within the “white” racial category are several cultures and ethnicities (e.g. British, Irish, French, German, Dutch, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Republican, Democrat, Texan, New Yorker, etc.), but as Europeans became “Americanized” they also became “racialized” and thought of themselves racially instead of culturally. The racialization of Americans has become so lodged in the minds of Americans that “American” culture (e.g. individualism, capitalism, fast food, etc.) has become synonymous with “white” so that we have to qualify “American” with racial identifiers: e.g. African American, Asian American, Native American, etc.

The majority of the “black” community is so firmly racialized that they too have a difficult time separating their racial identification from their cultural traditions. (The cultures among Africans brought to America were systematically dismantled when they were shackled on the European slave boats.) Most “blacks” will acknowledge that there are cultural differences among “blacks” (e.g. North vs. South, rural vs. urban, middle class vs. working class, African vs. Caribbean, etc.). However, some will argue that all “blacks” share a culture that is characterized by its own language, food, music, art, dress, etc. These folk are confusing culture with the shared experience of being racialized and having to deal with racial oppression. That is, even though a “black” person may not speak Ebonics, dislike BBQ, and prefer classical over rap music, s/he has a bond with other “black” people because of their shared struggle of enduring racism. Certainly there is a culture in American made up of primarily (not all) people who are identified as “black.” This culture is referred to as “Black” (and sometimes as “African American”) but it is a culture not a race. Dark skin tone does not determine one’s culture (e.g. not all blacks trace their cultural heritage to Africa) and not all members of the “Black or African American” culture have dark skin (e.g. light-skinned Hispanics, Asians or whites raised in urban Detroit).

Barack Obama is racially identified as “black”: he “looks” more black than white and most Americans do not use the “multiracial” term. But, because Barack’s cultural background is Hawaiian and Indonesian he is being criticized for not being “black enough.” What is this all about? If Barack is not intimately familiar with Black English or Ebonics, BBQ, hip-hop, etc., then he is not “black enough.” These critics are confusing Obama’s cultural background with how he is racially identified. If Barack racially identifies himself as “black” he has to be prepared to demonstrate some knowledge of “Black” culture in America.

I know this gets confusing but making the separation between culture and race really does sort out who Barack is and why he is being criticized for not being “black enough.” It will also predict and make sense of how he will posture himself in a multicultural but racialized electorate as he seeks the U.S. presidency. Obama has to be careful if and when he identifies himself as “African American” because (even though his biological father is African) it is not “black” (see NOTE below). Barack cannot afford to racially identify himself as “biracial” or “multiracial” because it would alienate some blacks who would see this identification as a statement that he does not take racism seriously. (Tiger Woods is “black” to most people even though he racially identifies as “Caublasian” which is his mixed-race term. The black community has distanced themselves from Tiger because of his multiracial identification and being married to a “white” woman. In my experience, Tiger rarely comments on or is rarely called upon to advocate for racial justice.) I predict that Barack will self-identify as “black” for primarily political reasons. The most important issues for me will not be how Barack identifies himself or is identified, but what he has done and will do in the areas of foreign policy (war), civil rights, and the ongoing racial/class injustice in the world.

NOTE: The term “Black” was born out of the mid-20th century American civil rights movement as a political statement against “whites” who had given Blacks racist names like “Negroes” and “Coloreds.” “Black” identification was a political statement; people who identified as black were demanding racial justice and civil rights. “Black” was beautiful. “Black” was not inferior or sub-human. “Black Power” was a socio-political movement aimed at overturning “white” power. “Black” is not just a label. “White” is not just a label. In our racialized society, the construction of race impacts almost every aspect of our lives. Knowing how and why “race” is constructed (i.e. deconstructing race) is part of the process of healing and dismantling racism. Unfortunately, most anti-racists and social activists in America (scholars included) continue to racialize themselves in an attempt to confront racism. That is, they use the construction of race without discernment: i.e. knowing how and when the construction contributes to the continued racialization and racism within our minds and society. Using the words of the oppressor is needed to communicate with one another. But, the oppressor’s words need not continue to frame the discussion or define anti-racist action. This is not an argument against Affirmative Action or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Racial counting or demographics by the U.S. Census is still necessary in order to monitor compliance with Civil Rights legislation. Educators and religious leaders have failed when the majority of the American populace still believes that “race” is a biological and cultural reality rather than a social-political construction. The U.S. government’s (i.e. Census Bureau and EEOC) use of racial categories sustains racialized thinking but is also necessary in the dismantling of racism. Some people use “Black” as an ancestral term making reference to the descendants of West African slaves who live in the United States. Determining who is and who is not a descendant of African slaves is extremely problematic. Birth records of slaves are sketchy at best and using “blood lines” for racial membership only adds fuel to the biological myth of race and racial purity.

Postscript – November 2008

Using racialized terminology to label people will continue until there is a significant degree of racial equity in the United States. The election of a President who identifies and is identified as “black” is a significant but still a small step towards racial justice. Unfortunately, because the U.S. is so firmly segregated by race and class, only a small number of people recognize or experience the continued effects of institutionalized racism (e.g. public school funding and real estate steering).

Top Stories of 2008

Here’s a brief list of some our favorite stories that appeared on MediaMouse.org during 2008.

We’re not so big on end-of-the-year wrap-ups, hence the reason why our 2008 “top stories” list is just now being posted. However, we did one last year and already did a round-up of our favorite books of 2008, so it seems only appropriate to get this post done.

Compiling the list also offers some time for reflection on what MediaMouse.org has done over the past year. Like many progressive, left, or liberal news sources, we probably focused a bit too much on the 2008 elections. However, unlike many of those outlets, we focused most of our “Election Watch” coverage on dealing with systemic issues such as ballot access, voting problems, and substantive differences between the candidates. Unlike so many of our peers, we didn’t fall lockstep behind the Democratic candidates and I’d argue we’re in a better place because of it. With the inevitable disappointments that followed Obama’s election–see his right-leaning cabinet choices for example–we’re in a better position to hold Obama accountable.

Our traffic–as it has every year MediaMouse.org’s existence–also increased.

Anyway, here’s the list of some of our favorite stories. As always, the list could be considerably longer, but this seems like a manageable length.

Also, if you like what you see here or saw throughout the year, please consider giving a donation–it would mean a lot to us.

2008 Elections

Media

Racist Right

Islamophobia

Environment

The Economy

Iraq

Prisons

Immigration Failed as Wedge Issue in 2008 Campaigns

A new study of election advertising pertaining to immigration has found that the issue largely failed as a so-called “wedge issue” this election. While some Republicans ran harsh anti-immigration ads to attack their Democratic rivals, most of them lost.

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A new study by the group America’s Voice has found that politicians who relied on harsh immigration ads as a campaign strategy lost to candidates who either advocated comprehensive immigration reform or who did not talk about the issue.

The study–titled “Anti-Immigration Ads Don’t Add Up in 2008“–found that the use of immigration as a wedge issue in the 2008 campaign was a failure. The study found that $27.2 million was spent on ads pertaining by immigration in 79 federal races and campaigns in 35 states, including Michigan. This money produced 234 immigration-related ads, of which 84% either advocated “enforcement-only” or harsh anti-immigration positions. Only 5% of ads advocated comprehensive immigration reform.

The report finds that Republicans were largely responsible for the harshest ads–running 85% of them–yet only 21% of those ads were placed by winning Republicans and their allies. The study also finds that Republican infighting over immigration often led to depleted resources for general election campaigns.

Limited Voting Problems in 2008, but Racial Disparities Remain

A new survey has found that voters had generally positive experiences voting in the 2008 presidential election. Unfortunately, like so many things in the United States, those feelings were less likely if you were not white. People of color reported longer lines and being asked for ID more often than white voters.

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Earlier this month, MediaMouse.org reported that voting problems were not nearly as widespread as they were in the 2000 and 2004 elections. Now a new survey conducted by the Pew Center on the States, AARP, and MIT has confirmed this.

The survey found that overall voting in the 2008 presidential election went smoothly. 91% of those surveyed said that it was easy to find their polling place, 83% said their polling place was well run, and 75% said that they were “very confident” that their vote was counted.

However, despite the generally favorable assessment, there were concerns and problems, particularly along racial lines:

* On Election Day, African American voters waited more than twice as long to vote (29 minutes) than all other voters, who reported an average wait time of 13 minutes to vote. Early voters said they had to wait an average of 20 minutes to vote, but African Americans again reported an average wait time more than twice as long–43 minutes;

* Latinos said they were asked to show ID more often than whites or African Americans in states that require ID;

* More than half of the states require no ID to vote, yet 12 percent of voters in these states not requiring ID said they were asked to present an ID. Meanwhile, in states that require a photo ID, 20 percent of voters said they were never asked for one.

Beyond racial disparities, confidence in the voting process was also lower among early voters. Only 61% of absentee voters believed that their ballot would be accurately counted.

The survey was unveiled at a conference where Secretaries of State, election officials, and election experts were gathered to discuss electoral reform.

Obama Transition Team Includes Fundraisers and Lobbyists

Obama’s Transition Team features a number of bundlers, fundraisers, and lobbyists according to a new review by the Center for Responsive Politics.

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The Center for Responsive Politics has released a new database of Obama’s transition team members and their research suggests it might not have been just their resumes and expertise that got them places on the team. According to the research, many members of the team either contributed to Obama’s campaign or were current or former lobbyists.

The Center provides a useful breakdown of the numbers:

$824,155: Minimum total that transition team members contributed to Obama’s campaign and to joint fundraising committees formed to support his election. Like figures below, this amount may well be higher. Lacking more than just a name for many team members, CRP has not been able to match everyone to our databases.

$3,869.27: Average contribution to Obama and joint fundraising committees from those on the transition team who contributed to the president-elect this election cycle. Supporters were limited to giving $4,600 directly to Obama since the start of 2007 but could give additional money to the Democratic party.

56: Percent of all announced transition team members who contributed to Obama or a joint fundraising committee supporting his candidacy.

$2 million: Total amount that donating transition team members gave to Democratic candidates and committees this cycle.

$7,977.04: Average contribution that donating transition team members gave to all federal candidates, parties and committees this election cycle. Any individual could give up to $108,200 this election cycle. The percentage of Americans who give even $200 to federal politics is less than one-half of 1 percent.

6: Number of team members who, apparently, didn’t give money to any Democratic party committee or candidate, including Obama, but contributed to Republicans or other parties.

23: Number of transition team leaders who are, or have been since 1998, federally registered lobbyists. Seven of them were registered lobbyists as of the start of this year. Obama has prohibited currently registered lobbyists from working on his transition team in fields of policy on which they’ve tried to influence Congress in the last year. They’re also required to stop all lobbying activity during their transition work.

14: Number of transition team members who raised at least $50,000 for Obama’s campaign. Every one of these bundlers also gave at least $2,300 to Obama out of his or her own pocket.

$2.8 million: Minimum total amount bundled by members of the transition team.

Once again, it’s important to make note of these facts and to consider how they might shape progressive strategy.

Obama’s “Small Donors” — About the Same Percentage as Bush in 2004

A new report from the Campaign Finance Institute has an intriguing analysis of Democratic president elect Barack Obama’s fundraising. It finds that claims the campaign was funded primarily through small donors more of a myth than a reality.

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The nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute has released a new analysis showing that Democrat president elect Barack Obama’s claims of running a campaign primarily supported by so-called “small donors” is greatly exaggerated.

In the analysis, the Campaign Finance Institute finds that while a high percentage (49%) of Obama’s contributions were $200 or less, only 26% of his donors were so-called “small donors,” a number that is barely higher than President George W. Bush’s percentage of small donors in 2004.

To be sure, Obama reached more small donors than previous candidates and a larger percentage of his money came from small donors. However, big donors–those contributing over $1,000–were significant players in his fundraising efforts. 47% of his donors gave over $1,000, accounting for 33% of his fundraising totals. According to the Campaign Finance Institute:

“Much of this money was raised the “old fashioned” way. Since only about 13,000 of those who started out small for Obama ended up crossing the $1,000 threshold, that means the bulk of Obama’s $213 million in large-donor contributions during the primaries came from about 85,000 people who started out giving big and stayed there. Much of this large-donor money – perhaps close to a majority – came to the campaign through bundling methods initially perfected by Bush.”

Hopefully as the election hype winds down, a debate will occur about Obama’s fundraising and his decision to forgo public financing. Because while he did raise considerable money from small donors, it was hardly the popularly funded, “every person” campaign that it is often made out to be.

Statistics from the analysis:

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Obama Announces More Cabinet Appointees

The Obama administration has announced more cabinet appointees, including Timothy Geithner for Treasury Secretary. Hillary Clinton has also reportedly been picked to be Secretary of State. A debate continues to rage about whether or not Obama’s picks are indicative of the “change” he promised during the campaign.

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Over the past several days, the Obama administration has announced a number of new appointments like Timothy Geithner for Treasury Secretary. He has also reportedly selected Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State.

In the past, we’ve critiqued picks for Obama’s transition team as well as the nomination of Rahm Emanuel, who was key in securing the passage of NAFTA. In this vein, reporter Jeremy Scahill has written a new piece called “This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama’s White House” that is heavily criticizes many of Obama’s foreign policy advisors for being proponents of the liberal interventionism that characterized the 1990s. Scahill argues that Clinton’s foreign policy paved the way for President George W. Bush’s actions in Iraq.

However, there have been some progressives appointed to the transition team. Writing for Mother Jones’ blog, reporter David Corn has highlighted some of them.

Of course, there is still much to debate about Obama’s picks thus far, as Scahill and Corn did recently on Democracy Now.

Speaker Addresses Possible Changes With New Administration

Last night, the Progressive Women’s Alliance hosted a speaker who discussed changes that might happen in the government in light of the election of Barack Obama earlier this month.

On Wednesday, the Progressive Women’s Alliance hosted a speaker from Grand Valley State University (GVSU) who talked about the necessity of changing how government functions.

Professor Danny Balfour’s talk was entitled “Righting the Ship of State,” which he said was a presentation on the importance of changing how government functions particularly while the country is in transition from the Bush administration to the new Obama administration. Balfour is also a co-author of the book, Unmasking Administrative Evil.

The speaker began by saying that he believed that with the new administration coming to power “there is a space now to talk about policy instead of politics.” Professor Balfour believes that the Bush administration has been ideologically driven and that there seems to be evidence that the new administration will not continue that trend. The presenter offered no evidence other than to mention some of the campaign rhetoric.

The presenter’s basic thesis for the evening was that the US is a country that has moved from being a country that is run as a Nation State (1900 – 1990) to one that one that is governed as a Market State (1990 – ?). A Market State is where “government exists to maximize opportunities for citizens. In other words there has been an increasing reliance on market-based governance.” He says this in effect began just before the Clinton administration took office.

The old format, what he called the Nation State, is where “government and corporations promote and provide for the welfare of the nation. Therefore, the reliance is more on bureaucracy.”

The speaker said:

“There has been an increasing sense that government cannot be trusted and that the Market State has made it nearly impossible for corporation to remain efficient and have the ability to serve the public good. A Market State provides opportunities and incentives as opposed to rules and regulations under the Nation State model. Government has become less and less trusted to provide basic services and have been replaced by the market and non-profit sector.”

The mantra has been, according to the speaker, “the market can do it better.”

Professor Balfour believes that corruption, under the Market State model, will increase. He provides some data on the increase in federal employees, particularly the use of privatize contractors. In 1999, there were 4.4 million contracted federal employees, which increased to 7.6 million by 2008. He also showed a graph, which said that federal spending on private contracts increased from $209 billion in 2000 to $415 billion in 2006. Unfortunately, the speaker provided no source for this data. The majority of contracts, he said, were for general management and support services, which previously was for products and services. He used the aftermath of Katrina as an example of this shift in contracting. He shows that most of the contracts were no bid contracts, thus insulating the public from the private. This provided an opportunity to do what Naomi Klein has called the “Shock Doctrine.” The “Shock Doctrine” is when government restructures economic systems through a catastrophe (Katrina) or through military force (Iraq).

This “Market State” approach can also be seen in the increase of private security forces being used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Contracts for private services through the State Department were at $2.55 Billion in 2000 and increased to $4.85 by 2006. He looked at Blackwater Worldwide as an example of the cost of these privatized services. Blackwater contracts went from $205,000 in 2000 to $1.2 Billion by 2007. The speaker also mentions that the bulk of these contracts had no transparency. Blackwater is now expanding its contracts with other countries, now that they have an infrastructure, which was paid for by US taxpayers.

The speaker then asked the question, “Why was their contract renewed in 2007, even after the bad publicity?”

Balfour gave two reasons for the contract being renewed. First, the laws that were put in place in Iraq under Paul Bremer prevented real prosecution of private contractors and second, the State Department is now in a position where they are dependent on contractors like Blackwater since there aren’t enough US military personnel to do what the private contractors do.

The speaker asked, “What are the challenges that are faced by the new administration?” Balfour believes the new administration should cut poorly performing contracts with private entities, add contract management staff and have a system of greater accountability. He stated that many of the current Bush staff will burrow–meaning that they will be re-titled and will not be removed, thus making it harder for a change in how the government functions. However, the speaker thought that since much of the current government staff is near retirement there is a need to recruit thousands of new employees, which could provide an opportunity for new energy in government.

The speaker concluded by pondering the question, “What has Obama promised?” Balfour believes that the new administration will “go through the budget line by line,” to make sure there is greater accountability in how government spending. He said that Obama wrote letters to the federal employees during the campaign to win their trust, but also acknowledged that he wanted their vote. Balfour also believes that an Obama administration will “pursue fewer but larger contracts for economies of scale, promote transparency & accountability, and add staff to Social Security, the EPA and Homeland Security. Balfour believes that without addressing the governance issues it will be impossible to change the system. He seemed hopeful that this will happen, at least to the degree that the president-elect has given verbal commitment to these changes.

During the question and answer period, Balfour was challenged on a few points. Someone said that they had a problem with the Bush administration’s faith-based initiatives program and that the Obama administration has already said they will continue it. Balfour’s response was that the difference will be the new administration will take each contract with faith-based groups under consideration, whereas the Bush administration wasn’t interested in oversight.

MediaMouse.org asked if the speaker felt that the list of people who have been chosen for the new administration, many of which are former Clinton people, indicates little change to the “Market State” model. Balfour responded by saying that while it is true that some of the new appointees were in the Clinton administration they are smart enough to see that the current economic model isn’t working and that they will be looking for “a new paradigm that will fit within the global economy.”

Anonymous Donors Dominated Michigan Supreme Court Campaign

The Michigan Supreme Court race was dominated by money from anonymous donors who funded some of the most controversial ads in the race. Undisclosed donors bought more than 60% of the ads aired during the campaign.

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Anonymous donors dominated the race for Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, contributing more than 60% of the total spending in the race according to a new review by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

In the race between Chief Justice Clifford Taylor and Judge Diane Hathaway, much of the spending was “off the books” in that it was candidate-focused “issue” advertising that is not subject to disclosure laws. This money–which is not reported in campaign finance reports–included a number of controversial ads:

  • The Michigan Democratic Party spot that featured a dramatization of a sleeping judge and testimony of a litigant who claimed that Chief Justice Taylor slept during oral argument of her case.
  • The Michigan Chamber of Commerce spot that encouraged viewers to contact Judge Hathaway and tell her not to be soft in sentencing sex offenders, as an unnamed assistant prosecutor asserted she had been in the past.
  • The Michigan Republican Party spot that showed a bikini-clad woman frolicking on a beach and said that Judge Hathaway previously had pursued a seat on the Court of Appeals so she could have a light work load and enjoy leisure time on the beach.

According to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Democratic Party and the Michigan Republican Party spent $3.75 million on television ads in the race.

Unfortunately, this unaccountable spending is nothing new. Since 2000, issue ad spending has almost equaled the amount of money raised by candidates.

The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is advocating for three policy reforms to improve the situation:

  • Require full disclosure of the receipts and expenditures for campaign advertisements that feature the name or image of a candidate, whether the ads mention voting or not.
  • Update disqualification standards for the Michigan Supreme Court to acknowledge the potential for conflict of interests when justices hear cases that involve major financial supporters of their election campaigns.
  • Develop a system of public financing for Supreme Court campaigns, so candidate committees have a viable alternative to soliciting financial support from interest groups and attorneys who may be involved in future cases.