Many of us felt a Capra-esque glow the morning after Election Day, happy that the Little Guy had triumphed over Big, Dark Money. And, to be honest, there was also more than a little schadenfreude to go around – what, with the spectacle of so many right-wing billionaires wasting so much money on their Cro-Magnon candidates. There’s a danger, though, in assuming their losses had taken the fight out of these tycoons – or that their lost millions somehow weakened their future political clout.
The fact is that the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on 2012 elections by the Koch brothers, Jerry Perenchio and others were little more than paper cuts to these men. They could probably recoup all their losses in a day by raising the cost of the oil they refine, or the price of plywood they sell, by an eighth of a cent. Every time you or I fill up our gas tanks or otherwise patronize one of the thousands of enterprises owned by conservative billionaires, we are helping to fund tomorrow’s monster candidates and nightmare ballot initiatives.
We can see what lies ahead from recent comments made to the Wall Street Journal by Sheldon Adelson. The gnomish, ginger-haired casino magnate who threw more than $150 million after Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and other candidates in 2012, let it be known to the house organ of the One Percent that he plans to double the amount he spent in 2012 in upcoming elections. After describing himself to interviewer Alicia Mundy as a “social liberal” who supports stem-cell research and the Dream Act, Adelson announced he’s jumping on the right-to-work bandwagon. Wrote the WSJ‘s Mundy:
What divides Mr. Adelson from the Democratic Party is his stand on unions, which have been unable to organize his workers. His flagship,the Venetian, is the only nonunion casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Mr.Adelson said he was likely to continue funding state-by-state efforts to curtail organized labor’s power, in particular by trying to overturn their use of collective bargaining agreements. That was a feature of high-stakes political fights this year in states including Ohio and Wisconsin.
In other words, we can look forward to more of the bitter and divisive political battles that have helped poison the well of public discourse in this country, courtesy of a handful of wealthy individuals who don’t want to let their employees join unions and enjoy a modicum of middle-class financial security. The selling point will be the same, no doubt, as it was when Michigan’s lame-duck legislators voted to make that state a right-to-work wasteland: Workers should be free not to pay dues to the unions that work to protect their jobs and their rights.
Or the message might be somewhat more toned down – that employees have the right to tell unions whether or not they want their dues money to be spent on political action. Of course, we as consumers have no say in where the money we spend on the products and services sold by the Adelsons, Kochs and others goes. That’s one freedom these men won’t be promoting any time soon.
The Frying Pan
Tuesday, 8 January 2013