Fox News and its boss, Roger Ailes, along with Karl Rove and unlimited corporate campaign contributions, pose an enormous threat to President Barack Obama and Democratic candidates this fall.
Although they may not be working in tandem, they pursue common goals: Republicans winning control of Congress in 2010, defeating Obama two years later and restoring conservative business-first Republican policies.
To understand Fox’s importance, think of it as a political campaign rather than a news operation.
Fox’s political role is to stir up the Republican base, which bears a demographic resemblance to the news channel’s audience—older, more conservative, whiter than the audiences of its competitors.
With a single-minded intensity, Fox frames the world through stories that will stir this base—Obama’s religion, taxes, the Obama health care law, the Iran nuclear reactor, immigrants, the economy and, over and over again, the proposed community center and mosque near the World Trade Center site. These issues are presented in news stories, commentaries and talking-head discussion shows and by star personalities such as Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck with their torrent of anti-Obama propaganda.
Leading this de facto campaign is the news channel’s president, Ailes, a veteran Republican political communicator. It’s like a daily tea party rally, hour after hour of right-wing Republicanism, only the audience is at home, in front of television screens, steaming about Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats.
But no matter how much its adherents steam, the Republican base isn’t big enough to capture the Senate and the House in November. The Republicans need independents and Democrats—and plenty of money, more than is being raised by the anemic efforts of the Republican National Committee and its chairman, Michael Steele.
That’s where Rove comes in. His efforts won’t be as visible as those of Fox News, but they are as dangerous to the Democrats.
Rove, who guided George W. Bush to the governor’s office in Texas and then the White House, is more pragmatic than the loud voices of the Republican right. The nativist far right, for example, espouses the Arizona anti-immigrant law. Rove has criticized it and favors giving illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. Unlike the far right, Rove is looking down the road at the increasing number of Latino voters. He’ll do anything to win.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which lifted limits for corporate political contributions, cleared the way for Rove and his colleague, former Republican National Chairman Ed Gillespie, to form American Crossroads, a national political organization aiming to raise money to finance advertising and grass-roots organizing for Republicans. The court decision allows such organizations to raise unlimited amounts of money under weak disclosure rules for donors and political organizations.
Unions can also raise unlimited contributions, but their resources don’t match those of corporate America. The Open Secrets blog of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics said American Crossroads has pledged to spend more than $50 million for Republican candidates this fall. By midsummer, American Crossroads had raised almost $4.7 million, 97 per cent of it coming from companies owned by just four billionaires.
One of them, Salon reported last month, is Southwest Louisiana Land LLC, which gave $1 million. It is owned by Harold Simmons, a Dallas investor who has contributed to such past causes as Oliver North’s defense fund, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which damaged Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004, and the American Issues Project, which ran advertisements in 2008 trying to tie Obama to Bill Ayers, a co-founder of the Weather Underground Organization, an anti-Vietnam War group that claimed responsibility for a dozen bombings between 1970 and 1974.
American Crossroads has already given Republican Ron Portman $454,340 for his race for the Senate in Ohio. An American Crossroads affiliate, Crossroads GPS, has begun running ads in Colorado against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, who is in a tight race.
Thirteen Senate races are rated tossups by Charlie Cook, whose Cook Political Report has kept track of such matters with great precision.
Looking at Cook’s list, it’s not hard to figure where Rove will spend the money he is gathering from corporate and billionaire sources.
Washington, where liberal Democratic Sen. Patty Murray is in trouble, is a certain target. No doubt Rove will provide funds for right-winger Sharron Angle in her bid to defeat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada. If Carly Fiorina, who is running against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in California, needs some dirty ads that can’t be connected to her campaign, Karl will be there.
Expect American Crossroads to put money into races for the House, where Cook has predicted the Republicans will win up to 45 more seats, six more than the 39 they need to capture the majority.
This money—and much more from other groups—will be spent through committees as shadowy as those that orchestrated the Swift boat veterans and Bill Ayers smears of 2004 and 2008. The money will go for research for new attacks, last-minute television advertising and Internet campaigns.
Thanks to the Supreme Court, there will be no limits on this money and few ways to trace it. Nor will the propagandists be limited by the truth. Business is determined to defeat Obama and the Democrats. And one thing is certain: It won’t let honesty get in the way of victory.Citizens United v. FECGeneralDemocracy SquareDemocracy SquareDemocracy Square