Where’s My Personal Billionaire?

by wjw on January 23, 2012

It occurs to me that yesterday’s South Carolina primary signaled a paradigm shift in American politics.  In order to run for office, you no longer have to please the electorate.  You only have to please one person.

Your personal billionaire.

Newt Gingrich, the ethically-challenged former Speaker of the House, had been written off after his fourth-place finish in the New Hampshire primary.  But then his personal billionaire, Sheldon Adelson,wrote a $5 million check to a “super-PAC” supporting Gingrich, and Gingrich was able to place $3.5 million worth of ads within the ten days or so left before the primary.  Some of that money went into airing a 28-minute film accusing Mitt Romney of being an uncaring corporate raider out to deprive Americans of their jobs.  It didn’t matter that the film was loaded with inaccuracies.  It didn’t have to please anyone but a single person.

Newt’s personal billionaire.

Newt,  he of the Tiffany’s charge account, launched a ferocious attack on Romney and indeed on capitalism itself, and indulged in some savage race-baiting while he was at it.  (Populism at its best, we can all agree.)  And of course the noted serial adulterer agreed with his fellow Republicans about the need to defend the sanctity of marriage by depriving gays of their rights, and also agreed that pregnant rape victims should be forced (at gunpoint, I presume) to bear their rapists’ children.

I can only presume that many Republicans were deeply uncomfortable hearing Newt attack capitalism and saying some of the other stuff that he was saying.  But why should Newt care?

He only needs to please his personal billionaire.

(I should point out, before the knee-jerk indignant responses swarm in, that I don’t actually care if Newt committed adultery or not.  That was between him and Mrs. Newt.  And the other Mrs. Newt.  And the other Mrs. Newt.  What I care about is that he was banging Callista in his car in the Congressional parking lot while prosecuting Bill Clinton for getting a blow job in the Oval Office, because that speaks to the sort of person he is.)

Anyway, Newt’s ad-buying and race-baiting got him a decisive 40% of the South Carolina vote.  But even if he’d lost, why should he quit?

After all, he needs only to please his personal billionaire.

So how did American politics come to this pass?  After all, we have a law that says a candidate can only receive $5000 in contributions from a single person, and a $5 million check would seem to be somewhat in excess of that.  But thanks to one of our handy 5-4 Supreme Court decisions (Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, if you want to look it up), corporations (and unions) are now allowed to spend as much as they like, so long as it doesn’t go directly to a candidate.

And why would they give money to the candidate?  I mean, why bother?  They now have an unlimited license to spend however much money they want in direct advocacy of whatever it is they want to advocate.  Did either Adelson or Gingrich note or care that the film attacking Romney was loaded with inaccuracies?

Why should they?  Buy enough ads, you control the story.   And after the ad buys, the story wasn’t “Is Mitt Romney a heartless capitalist?”, but “How much of a heartless capitalist is he?”

(I will leave the answer to that as an exercise for the reader.)

How much is $5 million to a casino tycoon like Sheldon Adelson?  Well, he’s the 8th wealthiest American, and the 16th wealthiest person in the world.  According to one report, he makes over a million dollars per day. Buying a primary is chump change.

Now if you’ve got a billionaire behind you, why would you ever quit?  Why should any billionaire’s candidate retire from the race just because he loses some elections?  As long as your personal billionaire is willing to write checks, you can keep on chugging along.

That’s going to be a game-changer.  Every candidate with a personal billionaire can keep campaigning right up to the convention.  Or even past it, what the hell.

(And meanwhile,  while Republicans slag each other, and slag capitalism, of all things, Mr. Obama is sitting on top of a campaign war chest that may approach a billion dollars.  He’s his own personal billionaire.)

Which brings me to my main point.  Where the hell is my personal billionaire?

I mean, dude, I’m ready.  If I have a billionaire looking out after me, I’ll totally go on TV and say whatever crazy shit the billionaire wants me to say.  Why should I care what people think?

Because I’ll have my own personal billionaire.

mikel weisser January 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

thanks for this writing. This brings the issue to the fore. When you find your billionaire, let me know. I would like to enlist him in my run for congress.

Ralf The Dog. January 23, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Let me know when you want to run for office.

Just a side note, I ran for judge once. Fortunately, the bailiff tackled me before I got to him, otherwise, I would not yet be out of jail.

Shash January 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm


Mike January 27, 2012 at 9:26 pm

> What I care about is that he was banging Callista in his car in the
> Congressional parking lot while prosecuting Bill Clinton for getting a
> blow job in the Oval Office, because that speaks to the sort of person he is.)

Mr. Williams, you are one of my favorite writers, I own all your books and will continue buying them in the future. You are obviously a very intelligent person. Since I just cannot understand the quoted line, I am obviously not.
Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about an affair with a subordinate during judicial proceedings focused on accusations of sexual harrassment.
How do you possibly span the distance from “prosecuting for … lying under oath” (which is a felony, and him being an attorney) to “prosecuting … for getting a blow job”? Seriously.

wjw January 28, 2012 at 1:30 am

Okay, I’ll take that one.

When a prosecutor (or someone else acting in that capacity) becomes aware that the law has been broken, there are any number of options for action, ranging from nothing at all to full-out prosecution. A lot of crimes are never prosecuted, because it’s not worth the government’s time.

When Congress became aware of the President’s lie, they had the potential of a large range of actions ranging from nothing to censure to impeachment. The Republican leadership decided that lying about adultery is a “high crime and misdemeanor” and opted for a series of lurid hearings followed by an impeachment vote.

This was not only vicious, but incredibly stupid.

Was it worth shutting down government for the better part of two years in order to devote yourself to the pursuit of lurid testimony about cigars and semen-stained dresses? It’s not only not worth it, it’s ridiculous, and the Republicans got hammered in the mid-term elections by an electorate fed up with their behavior.

They could have voted to censure the president and moved on with running the nation, and I doubt anyone would have much objected.

Consider by contrast presidents actually lying about actual high crimes. George HW Bush was up to his hips in Iran-Contra, though he denied to all and sundry that =what he had written in his diary= was untrue. (I do not actually recall whether he testified under oath before the Tower Commission or not. Certainly Reagan did.)

In any case, he was guilty of breaking the law if not perjury, and we have yet to await an indictment from Congress or anyone else.

Any number of administration officials lied before Congress in the run-up to the Iraq war. Guilt clear, no indictments.

When the economy crashed in 2007-2008, any number of tycoons were dragged before Congress to talk about the laws broken, the lies spoken, and the incredible wide-scale fraud that led to the crash. They all lied, more or less.

Who got indicted? Martha Stewart.

Who went to jail? Martha Stewart.

Her fraud netted her a little money on the side. Other people’s fraud costs billions.

Feel free to wax indignant about Clinton’s lie, but I expect equal indignation in these other cases.

Jerry January 31, 2012 at 2:11 am

Dear Mr. Williams,

You are one of my favorite writers also — when I’m at the bookstore, I almost reflexively check to see if you have anything new on the shelves. I love your passion and your talent. Your politics, well, not so much… but is this a great country or what? I also will continue to buy anything of yours that comes out (part three of the Metropolitan universe? hint hint). You are a rock star! Politics, schmolitics, pfooey. I would ask just one little favor of you: when you find your personal billionaire, let me know if he has a sister for me. . . .

wjw January 31, 2012 at 4:24 am

Jerry, thank you for your comment. It is a mark of the truly civilized to realize that the civil airing of differences is one of the fundamental values of our democracy, and that because someone disagrees with you doesn’t devalue everything about them.

And dude, I would totally vote for =you.=

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