Dan Backer

According to Politico, Citizens United has not unleashed the expected flood of corporate political spending. It has instead allowed an unexpected flood of dark money political spending by the people who own and invest in American corporations. Of course, no Beltway story on this topic would be complete without a quote from Dan Backer at the end.

Most corporations, said conservative attorney Dan Baker, (sic) “don’t care whether any particular candidate wins or loses. Candidates and officeholder are essentially fungible to them. What corporations care about is a stable policy environment that’s more favorable than not to their business. And that’s it. And rightly so – that’s in their best interest and that of their shareholders.

“Corporations are less likely to spend money on particular elections and instead spend it hiring advocates and lobbyists to help tell their story,” Backer added.

As the article emphasizes, wealthy investors also care about that “stable policy environment,” which is a code phrase for the corporate resistance against regulation. Mr. Backer is himself an advocate and lobbyist for the investor class, and his major projects are the elimination of all campaign spending limits and keeping the money as dark as possible.

In one of the great ironies of our time, business-savvy investors fund the “dark money ATM”  that has empowered outside groups to pull the party rightwards, away from K Street. While this arrangement has worked well at the state level, where the Koch brothers-linked ALEC organization has largely succeeded in enacting a billionaire-friendly agenda, at the national level it has resulted in congressional gridlock and a growing tension between the business wing and the social agenda wing of the party. As Mr. Backer says, political contenders are a fungible commodity to the investor class. The elite are not really very concerned by which personality wins the popular vote as long as their taxes do not go up and their sloppy industries do not suffer regulation. Outside activists know this intuitively, and have always resented it.

There is no accountability to any of this activity. Karl Rove wasted hundreds of millions of dollars in 2012 while trying to change national election outcomes, but has so far paid no price for his failure. The ultimate insider, Rove is now distrusted and even hated by the conservative movement he helped to create. Convinced they could do better, outside groups wasted billions of public dollars (not to mention public patience) by pushing House Republicans into a government shutdown, and the party elite has recently begun to push back against those outside groups. This is not a prescription for party unity.