May 17, 2012

How Citizens United Is Leading To More Racism In TV Campaign Ads

This morning, the New York Times broke the news that Joe Ricketts, the billionaire founder of TD Ameritrade, is planning to unleash a race-baiting advertising assault against President Obama late in the campaign. Rickets, who used his Super PAC to fund an upset victory in Nebraska’s Senate election this week, intends to finance the anti-Obama ads. Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rotenberg report:

The world is about to see Jeremiah Wright and understand his influence on Barack Obama for the first time in a big, attention-arresting way,” says the proposal, which was overseen by Fred Davis and commissioned by Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. Mr. Ricketts is increasingly putting his fortune to work in conservative politics.

The $10 million plan, one of several being studied by Mr. Ricketts, includes preparations for how to respond to the charges of race-baiting it envisions if it highlights Mr. Obama’s former ties to Mr. Wright, who espouses what is known as “black liberation theology.”

The group suggested hiring as a spokesman an “extremely literate conservative African-American” who can argue that Mr. Obama misled the nation by presenting himself as what the proposal calls a “metrosexual, black Abe Lincoln.”

The article notes that Fred Davis, the advertising consultant who played a key role for John McCain in 2008 and many other GOP congressional campaigns, is helping to craft the ads. Davis was prevented from running similar ads in 2008 because McCain viewed them as derogatory and racially insensitive. The New York Times piece is a reminder that 2012 will be a far uglier campaign than the one Obama experienced when he first ran for president.

It’s also a stark reminder that the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision may unleash a new level of ugliness in American campaigns. Technically, the decision only allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts in elections. But in practice, Citizens United might fuel a wave of advertising designed to stir racial divisions and hatred against minority groups:

Super PACs Are Less Accountable: Super PACs and 501c groups that buy advertising (see Stephen Colbert’s primer on “Spooky PACs“) can hide their donors. This makes it difficult for the public or the media to scrutinize an ad once it’s launched. These groups can appear one day, and disappear the next. In 2010, an undisclosed 501(c)(4) nonprofit called the American Future Fund aired race-baiting ads that hit Democrats for supporting a New York mosque at Ground Zero, allegedly built to honor the terrorists’ victory on 9/11. In reality, the ads misquoted the lawmakers, and the mosque in question was a planned community center headed by a cleric who has worked for the government, including the Bush administration, for years to promote peace.

Candidates Have Less Control Of The Ads On TV: Limitless fundraising allows Super PACs to have the loudest voice in a campaign. And since Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with candidates, politicians have less say over who defines their own message. In 2008, Fred Davis prepared a fleet of advertisements with racially tinged messages, hitting Obama for crime and for his association with Rev. Wright. But McCain took the high road and never allowed the ads to see the light of day. Davis explained the situation with Time Magazine’s Michael Sherer a few weeks after the election in 2008. Now, Romney has no power to stop Davis from preparing any type of ad for Joe Rickett’s Super PAC.

Dog whistle racism and other cheap campaign tricks, aired using front groups, have always been a factor in American political advertising. In 1988, an outside group called the National Security Political Action Committee, in coordination with the George H.W. Bush campaign, aired the infamous Willie Horton ad with heavy racial overtones.

But for the second time a major party will have nominated an African American candidate, the campaign landscape will be different. Obama and other candidates for office this year face any number of eccentric billionaires or corporate interests that may have no hesitation in poisoning the public dialogue with hate.

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  • kentuckywoman2

    Doesn’t surprise me in the least. Ever since G.W. Bush, we’ve seen the tenets of fascism creep ever more pervasively into our government. Also, we’ve seen the Saudi Arabian influence – which the Bush’s, Cheney’s, etc., do business with – also creep into our government. It’s as though the Republicans have taken from fascism and the Saudi monarchy those government practices they wish to see here in the States and slowly but surely introduced them into our democracy! Democrats have become nothing more than fearful slugs. Instead of fighting back patriotically, they’re caving one by one to the Nazi onslaught. When one Party is far too bold and the other Party is far too timid, the handwriting is on the wall. If our democracy is to be saved, it will have to be THE PEOPLE who will do it.

    So when these ads air, CALL YOUR LOCAL STATION TO COMPLAIN. That’s the FIRST thing to do. Then, keep a daily log of when these ads air, what stations they are on, and the tv shows that are on when they air. Then keep track of the ADVERTISING SPONSORS for those shows. The SECOND thing to do then is to CALL AND WRITE the TV NETWORKS AND ALL THE SPONSORS to tell them you are BOYCOTTING THEIR SHOW/NETWORK/PRODUCT

  • Sechumanist

    Ricketts has now backed off his part in this episode. He now says he had no intention of following through with the plan. He’s lying!

    This conservative cretin owns the Chicago Cubs and wants the state to come up with 150 million to help pay for a remodeling of the ballpark that would cost 300 million. His proud “concern” as a conservative is that government spends too much, Apparently, he sees nothing wrong with the state giving him 150 million for his PRIVATE business.

    Another reason conservatives are hypocritical scum.

    • Tillotson

      You need to understand that to these robber barons, their idea of government spending too much is anything that benefits the working people not themselves.

      • Sechumanist

        Yes, how true. Privatize profits and socialize their losses is another one of their priorities as well as blaming the masses for all of societies ills.

        It is not hyperbole to say that these capitalist pigs are out to ruin the country for their own benefit. If only there was a true opposition party that upheld fair principles for the 99%. But there isn’t. The dems are weak, unprincipled enablers.

        We’re screwed and have been for a long time. It is now just becoming more obvious.

    • CatKinNY

      When I realized that this lunatic had his hat in hand to Rahm Emanuel I laughed so hard I cried. Say what you want about Rahm, love him or hate him, we can all agree that the man is vindictive. Cubs fans will back the mayor when he tells Ricketts to pay for his own stadium upgrade. Wouldn’t it be great if this idiot sparked a long overdue conversation in America where we all decided to stop giving in to blackmail from billionaire team owners and made them pay their own goddamned bills?

      • Sechumanist

        Yes, in THIS case I hope he’s vindictive. We’ll see if he withstands the expected pressure from fans to expedite the remodeling.

        Rickett’s extortion is routine among business owners of all kinds. For example, the owner of Dick’s sporting goods stores who pressured states and local goverments to help him pay for new stores with tax incentives, etc.

        Read David Cay Johnson’s book, Free Lunch. It will make you sick. And most, if not all, of these cretins consider themselves conservative and AGAINST “big government” and “handouts”! The owner of Home Depot is another one.

        Vicious hypocrites all.

        • CatKinNY

          You know what scares me most? I don’t think most of these people see the hypocracy in their positions. They truly believe the line about them being ‘job creators’, and believe that they are due all the tax breaks and carve outs we’ve cravenly given them in this race to the bottom. Until they have driven the American consumer to the point where only 20% of us have the wherewithal to buy that new refrigerator, and they’re having trouble delivering it because trucks are barred from using most of our failing bridges, will they wake up and see that maybe it wasn’t the best idea to suck up all the money. Even then, some of them won’t rethink their positions until the peasants show up with the pitchforks and torches. I suppose we’ll take some grim satisfaction from hearing them admit that they fucked up, right before we hang them. Romney, if elected, will do everything he can to maximize the profits for shareholders and be sincerely mystified when that does nothing to help the economy. He doesn’t know anyone whose money isn’t tied up in stocks, and so he’s having genuine trouble imagining what happens in the average household when someone loses that second minimum wage job. He looks at people who have to decide between paying the electric bill and buying groceries the way most people look at ghosts: he fundamentally doesn’t believe in them and thinks there has to be an alternative explanation. Instead of the wind, or the settling creaks of an old house at night, it’s character flaws, and a little tough love might be just the ticket. It will never occur to him that the extremely progressive tax rates that were in place during the post war years, a period of unprecedented economic growth, could have had anything to do with that growth. The fable of supply side economics has seduced almost all of the business class; most of them genuinely don’t remember that they need customers.

          • Sechumanist

            Well said.

            The title to your post could read…

            This is the definintion of those with unlimited arrogance, indifference to those unlike them, a sense that they are entitled to anything they want because it is their due, and barren of empathy.

  • Tillotson

    Citizens United is the gift that keeps on giving. The Corporate Supremos must be so very proud of themselves. With one swipe of their mighty pen, they were able to turn what remained of a democracy into a full-blown kleptocracy. Well done! Kudos to Bush and Pappy. What Grandpappy Prescott couldn’t finish, his spawn accomplished to perfection.

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