Like everyone else, I watched the movie of the week, that clandestine video from Mitt Romney's fundraiser in Florida. I thought, we now have a record of what our modern day, wealthy gentry really thinks about the rest of us, and it's not pretty.
On the other hand, it's also not news. If you had reported as long as some of us have on winner-take-all politics and the unenlightened assumptions of the moneyed class, you wouldn't find the remarks of Romney and his pals all that exceptional. The resentment, disdain and contempt with which they privately view those beneath them are an old story.
The video, in fact, called to mind our first Gilded Age, back in the late 19th century when the celebrated New York dandy of the time, Frederick Townsend Martin, summed up the era when he declared, "We are the rich; we own America; we got it, God knows how, but we intend to keep it."
And so they do, as that glitzy gathering in Florida reminds us. You could see and hear one of the guests ask Mitt Romney:
AUDIENCE MEMBER: But what do we do? Just tell us what we can help....
MITT ROMNEY: Frankly, what I need you to do is to raise millions of dollars, because the president's going to have about $800 to $900 million. And that's -- that's by far the most important thing you could do.
The governor's being truthful there, because as we heard from Trevor Potter, money rules these campaigns. If there were more secret videos from other candidates, we would see them in equally compromised positions -- bowing and scraping in their infernal pursuit of campaign cash, bending over backwards to suffer the advice that the privileged think their money entitles them.
And I do mean both parties. Not far from this studio the other night, at a Manhattan fundraiser hosted by Jay-Z and Beyoncé, President Obama joked, "If somebody here has a $10 million check -- I can't solicit it from you, but feel free to use it wisely." At least, I think he was joking. Obama and Romney alike now shape their schedules as much around moneymaking events as rallies and town halls. They'll change the campaign jet's flight plan and make a special landing just for the cold, hard cash.
This, folks, is a racket, plain and simple. All that spending by the parties, corporations, super PACs and other outside groups will push political ad spending up this year by half a billion dollars, 25 percent higher than 2010. The biggest increase in history. That prompted the CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves, to lick his chops and tell investors last December, "There's going to be a lot of money spent. I'm not saying that's the best thing for America, but it's not a bad thing for the CBS Corporation."
So we journalists can't stop reporting on this, even though we're often told, "Please. Change the subject. Everyone's tired of this one." I'm not so sure. Trevor Potter sees a groundswell for rooting the money out of politics, as Americans come to see that this is the one reform that enables other reforms. And two polls released in the last few days report large majorities, as many as eight in ten of you, are in favor of clamping down on the amount of money that corporations, the super-rich and those shadowy outside groups are pouring into the campaigns. It's up to all of us to put a sign on every lawn and stoop in the land: "Our democracy is not for sale."
That's why next week we'll investigate yet another way in which corporate forces and their political allies are flying underneath the public's radar, with the help of a front group that goes by the innocent-sounding name, ALEC.
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