Thing One: Dash For Cash: Ladies and gentlemen, this is the democracy you bought.
With just a month and a half to go before the election, instead of talking about important issues that matter, like who Built That or who cares about our veterans more, the candidates, and the reporters who cover them, are obsessing about cash pretty much all of the time. Mitt Romney, for example, has spent just as much time in the past 20 days schmoozing the one percenters who donate money to his campaign as he has to actually talking to voters on the campaign trail, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein and Jon Ward report. Given that Mitt generates gaffes like a bubble machine at a Wiggles concert, this may be a feature rather than a bug. But if you are a Romney supporter who thinks his message should be heard outside the ranks of the already true believers, then this has to be discouraging to you.
But Romney has no choice: Obama is crushing it when it comes to raising money. Obama raised a record $84.7 million in August, topping Romney's not-insignificant $66 million haul. Obama has outspent Romney on advertising since May, $171.4 million to $30.3 million. The Republican National Committee has a big edge over the DNC in cash on hand, by about $30 million, but the RNC can't coordinate with Romney's campaign, which is cash-poor, notes The New York Times.
Meanwhile, the Super PACs like Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS may have tons of cash, but haven't exactly been stepping on the gas when it comes to backing Romney, notes The New Republic's Alec MacGillis. So Romney is going to spend the last precious weeks of the campaign hitting up the Sheldon Adelsons of the world for more gaffe-ing-around money, according to The New York Times.
As BuzzFeed's Ben Smith notes, some $2.5 billion has already been spent in this campaign this cycle all told, according to Open Secrets -- what Smith calls "some of the least effective spending in the world." Will the vast sums of money being wasted in this cycle finally help politicians see the light about the need for campaign finance reform? Let's go ahead and guess "no."
Thing Two: Banks Have Friends In High Places: One of the industries pumping the most cash into politics is the financial industry, which wants desperately to fight off as many post-crisis regulations as it can. Romney's national co-chairman, Tim Pawlenty, resigned yesterday to become CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, the financial industry's top lobbying group, becoming what the Washington Post calls "the new face of the GOP-Wall Street alliance." The sector also has a lot of allies on Capitol Hill, writes the NYT: "In public letters and closed-door meetings, more than 100 lawmakers have lobbied the Federal Reserve and other authorities over the Volcker Rule, records show." These lawmakers don't just pay for themselves, you know. At least one lawmaker, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), appears somewhat immune to the banking industry's cash: His permanent subcommittee on investigations is going to recommend a stronger Volcker Rule in the wake of JPMorgan Chase's London Whale debacle, Bloomberg writes.
Thing Three: Home Slightly Sweeter Home: The housing market is a long way away from its bubble peak -- and that's probably not such a bad thing -- but the recent slight improvement in home prices has helped repair household balance sheets, writes The Wall Street Journal's Neil Shah: "The value of Americans' real-estate holdings jumped about $400 billion, or 2.1%, to $19.1 trillion, in the second quarter, the Federal Reserve said Thursday, the highest level since the final three months of 2008."
Thing Four: Fed Heads Push For Still More Stimulus: If you think the Fed has done everything it can possibly do to help the economy, you're wrong. It can still do more, by targeting specific levels of unemployment and inflation it wants the economy to hit. Yesterday, even a usually hawkish member of the Fed proposed doing just that, WaPo writes: "On Thursday, an unlikely voice, Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, proposed that the Fed publicly state that it will continue to stimulate the economy until the unemployment rate reaches 5.5 percent or inflation rises higher than 2.25 percent."
Thing Five: If It's Friday, It Must Be Time To Probe Private Equity: The private equity industry just can't catch a break, can it? Now it's under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Bloomberg reports: "The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking to determine whether some private-equity firms are taking more profits from investments than they should under agreements with fund clients, according to two people with knowledge of the matter."
Thing Six: Not-So Prevailing Wind: The wind-power industry at the end of the year is due to lose a key tax credit it has enjoyed for 20 years. WaPo writes that powerful lobbies are doing battle over whether to extend the credit, putting at risk the very future of the industry.
Thing Seven: Fit And Proper, News Corp Style: Rupert Murdoch may not be "fit and proper" to run a company, according to British regulators, but his satellite TV service BSkyB is, the NYT writes: "Britain’s Office of Communications, known as Ofcom, said Thursday that British Sky Broadcasting, 39.1 percent owned by News Corporation, was “fit and proper” to hold a broadcast license. The ruling, which was a result of an investigation by the regulators that lasted months, relieves the company from an expensive legal fight to maintain its broadcast license."
Thing Seven And One Half: Maps And Legends: Have you heard about Apple's iO6 Maps feature? It's really awesome, in that it's like you gave a monkey a bunch of drugs and said, "Go, monkey, make some maps and funny pictures!" And this is the only mapping app you get with your new kajillion-dollar iPhone. Inevitably, there is a Tumblr to capture it in all of its glory.
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Calendar Du Jour:
Before Market Open:
Heard On The Tweets:
@byKhadeeja: Adam Glass of SEC says you just wanna cry when you read the SEC handling of the Madoff case.
@ezraklein: Romney's national co-chair is stepping down to be the head lobbyist for the financial services industry. He couldn't have waited six weeks?
@jimmyfallon: Mitt Romney is appearing on “The View.” It’s smart since it’s the one place where it’s impossible for him to say anything. #fallonmono
@moorehn: I feel like I would do so well in an agricultural community. I could have the "hmm. Looks like rain" conversation for at least an hour.
@kylekinane: My approach is if it worked for John Cusack in the 80s, there's no reason it shouldn't work for me now.