Cheers for Citizens United!

My good friend and editor of, Frank DeMartini, has always expressed his doubt that Hillary Clinton would actually run for office. As of now, she is the overwhelming favorite, even with the poor roll out of her book, Hard Choices, in which she reminded many Democratic voters that she is not her husband when it comes to campaigning. The one lesson that many pundits fail to grasp is the affect of Citizens United and the role of billionaires like the Koch brothers. In 2012, it was shown that billionaires can affect the election by supporting poorly financed insurgent candidates against the political establishments. Going into the Iowa caucus, Romney looked to be headed for victory, as most of his rivals were poorly financed.

The one candidate that could challenge Romney money-wise was Rick Perry, but his campaign was headed south going into the Iowa Caucus. Two billionaires, Sheldon Adelson and Foster Friess, funded independent PACs designed to support Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Both candidates' campaign finances were virtually non-existent but their billionaire patrons allowed them to compete with Romney. Between his own campaign and independent PACs supporting his cause, Romney still had the funding advantage, but the infusion of Adelson and Friess' money allowed Gingrich and Santorum to not only survive but to also use their precious funds for specific purposes like identifying supporters. Adelson and Friess' funding also relieved Santorum and Gingrich of having to worry about their own media campaigns' cost.

While Romney won the nomination, he barely lost Iowa to Santorum (he was declared the winner initially but a recount showed that he had actually lost) and got pummeled in South Carolina. Instead of wrapping up the nomination in late January or February, Romney was forced to campaign two extra months. Adelson and Friess ensured that voters had additional choices of candidates and forced Romney to campaign even harder than he would have liked.

In 2016, Clinton will have boat load of money going into the primary season, but she is just as vulnerable to a challenge in the primary season as Romney was. Her past book tour certainly shows that the inevitability of Hillary may not be as certain as believed a month ago. Mrs. Clinton's poll numbers are slipping and portions of the media have gone on the offensive against her. She has found herself on the defensive, not just from Fox, but from the more friendly media sources as well (which is everyone else but Fox). Diane Sawyer was as tough on her as Fox reporters were. There are plenty of people on the left who have their problems with Hillary and view her as not leftist enough; quite a few would prefer that the first woman President be Elizabeth Warren and not Hillary Clinton.

During the Primary season, if one Democratic billionaire (and there are plenty of Democratic billionaires) decides to support the opposition, then the primary season changes. Instead of cruising to victory, Hillary will be in a dog fight. Even if Clinton can out spend her opponents, including the opposing PACs, her opponents will have enough money to challenge her. All it takes is a loss in New Hampshire or Iowa, where a little money can go a long way, and suddenly the inevitable becomes a maybe.

The biggest challenge to the political class is the maverick billionaires, like the Koch brothers, who are perfectly willing to challenge status quo in order to push their free market agenda. (As I have noted in a past piece on the Koch brothers, their view on foreign policy is non-interventionist and they are liberal on many social issues like same-sex marriage.) A political pollster friend of mine told me that both political parties are unpopular and that if you want specific issues promoted, it will take an independent PAC to challenge the status quo. The irony is that while much of the media and political pundits rail against Citizens United, it is Citizens United that is allowing the establishment to be challenged.


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