It is election time and things are getting pretty heated on all sides of the political spectrum. The summer heat has already forced some pundits to go overboard in their political commentary. Take one Ruben Navarrette, who is quick to throw charges of racism around. Navarrette's latest target for unsubstantiated charges of racism is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
While on the Senate floor Senator Reid recently noted, "If this flood of outside money continues, the day after the election, 17 angry old white men will wake up and realize they just bought the country."
Senator Reid's comments were regarding outside money flooding into our general election system. The Senate was debating legislation called the DISCLOSE Act, which would require groups spending more than $10,000 during an election cycle to file a report within 24 hours and identify those donating more than $10,000. Spoiler alert it was blocked by the Senate GOP.
Pretty innocuous stuff, however according to Navarrette Senator Reid is brazenly playing the race card. This is nonsense; the basis of Senator Reid's statement actually came from a Washington Post story which noted that, "In 2011, 17 people made contributions of $1 million or more to the nine biggest conservative super PACs. That $28 million in donations accounted for half, yes HALF, of all the money these groups collected."
As for Senator Reid's comments regarding "17 old white men," due to the lack of transparency in these Super PACs, it's impossible to say exactly who has donated where. Here is what is publicly available about the current million dollar or higher funders of the largest Republican Super PAC's in 2012: Restore Our Future: Bob Perry, Robert Mercer, Paul Singer, John Kleinheinz, John Paulson Winning Our Future:, Dr. Miriam Adelson, Sheldon Adelson, Harold Simmons Red White and Blue Fund: William Dore, and Annette Simmons.
Based on this list alone it is hard to say for certain, but it sure looks like most on this list are in fact old, white men. Given this simple fact it is unclear what was so objectionable about Senator Reid's comments. Disclosure is important, just look at the $77M raised by Crossroads GPS, a GOP funded Super PAC in which 90% of their donations came from just 24 anonymous donors. Half of the moneyspent after 2010 elections and the Citizens United decision was spent by only 10 groups. To these eyes Senator Reid's assessment seems pretty accurate.
Yet this race question is a tricky one for Navarrette who contends that "The Senate majority leader's fixation on race and racism is not good for Reid, Democrats or the country." Really, has he checked in on the other side of the aisle on this? Chiding billionaires for trying to buy an election is nothing compared to trying to take money from children. Well for most people anyway...
A few months ago, the color-blind Senator David Vitter, (R-La.) tried to change the 14th Amendment to deny children of immigrants birthright citizenship and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) who once famously noted, "it's not sad that immigrant children are too scared to go to school, it's sad they're even here," tried to bring a bill to a vote that would have denied 4 million American Hispanic children access to the child tax credit. The families that this legislation targeted made on average $21,000, because one or both parents are undocumented. But the biggest victims would have been their American born children. Oh and by the way Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid blocked this bill which would have been disastrous for poor Hispanic children.
So to Navarrette who raises the question of whether Senator Reid is a racist, to quote the Man from Searchlight, "that's a clown question bro."