Independent NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Super PAC splash, announced very late in the 2012 election cycle, is certainly an interesting development for independent minded politicos to consider. Not since this year’s ill-fated attempt at a third party presidential candidate, manifested as American’s Elect, have we seen so much money from one source injected in the political sphere for the [indirect] benefit of independent voters.
Bloomberg’s cash, an estimated $10-15 million will be spent on:
“Highly competitive state, local and Congressional races. The money would be used to pay for a flurry of advertising on behalf of Republican, Democratic and independent candidates who support three of his biggest policy initiatives: legalizing same-sex marriage, enacting tougher gun laws and overhauling schools.”
Reported recipients of this outside cash will include Independent Senate frontrunner from Maine Angus King, “moderate” Congressmen Joe Baca and Bob Dold, and ballot initiative campaigns supporting same sex marriage, among others. While “Independence USA PAC” could be criticized as another “astroturf” grassroots initiative similar to Americans Elect, here’s why it actually has a chance to make a difference for independent voters where American’s Elect failed.
Playing by the established rules. For years, Democrats and Republicans have played electoral politics with “independent expenditures” as the ace strategy up their sleeves – prominent Independent candidates for Senate like Governor King, as well as Rob Sobhani in Maryland and Alex Pires in Delaware, could use an independent expenditure plan of their own. Already, over $5.4 million dollars in “outside money” has been spent in Maine, according to FEC figures. Included in this spending have been “truth distorting” attack ads against King sponsored by groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the US Chamber of Commerce.
Starting “small.” A group like Americans Elect failed because it spent millions on the “if you build it, they will come” concept. Whoops – turns out the “astroturf” criticism of their “grassroots” movement was spot on. Meanwhile, Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC seems to be making targeted spends in a handful of races that could be swung by $1 million dollars here or there. This level of support, for actual individual candidates for office, should give Independence USA PAC some actual staying power and credence with independents.
Flexible spending where it matters. $10-15 million isn’t a lot by “outside money” standards, but it’s nothing to sneeze at either. By waiting until three weeks before election day to spend, Bloomberg and his team have the chance to spend their money in proven close races where the outcome may actually be influenced by a last week cash infusion. Contrast this with American’s Elect, which spent their millions too soon, too broadly, and with no specifics to show for it.
Bloomberg isn’t asking for your money, he’s spending his. The most annoying feature of American’s Elect, still present on the page, is a “donate here” button. Right, because an organization that spent $9 million on a website and $11 million on ballot access needs my micro-contribution…