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The shadow campaign: Big money in this year’s midterm elections

We’re just over four weeks from a midterm election that could result in a major power shift in Congress. If the polls are right, Republicans may well take control of the House of Representatives. As Need to Know’s Jon Meacham pointed out several weeks ago, there’s nothing new about midterm elections resulting in the party out of power grabbing it back.

But what is new this year is the way the campaigns are being conducted, and how much is being spent — not by the campaigns themselves, but by others: corporations, advocacy groups and individuals with deep pockets. Media analysts estimate a record-breaking — and jaw dropping — $3.7 billion will be spent on advertising alone. But by whom exactly? That’s what we need to know, but it’s not easy to find out.

And that’s why the 2010 “shadow campaign,” as some are calling it, is on the Watch List this week.

The Watch List is Need to Know’s commitment to reporting on the consequences of decades of deregulation, and the failure of our leaders to keep us safe and secure. This week, we investigate the new impact of big money on our election process.

More than $3 billion spent on political campaigning may be good for media companies and campaign consultants, but is it good for democracy? This is the first nationwide election since the Supreme Court decision back in January of this year, which changed the campaign spending rules. Need to Know asked correspondent Rick Karr to explain how these changes are affecting the fiercely fought midterm elections.

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    Main Street: Findlay, Ohio
    Need to Know travels to Ohio to assess how workers are faring after the loss of millions of manufacturing jobs over the past 35 years.
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    Following the money: Tax breaks
    New CBO report echoes the findings of Need to Know's "A tale or four tax returns."
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      Certifiably employable
    Rick Karr recently visited Seattle to look at a program designed to give the unemployed the skills they need to find jobs in one of the country’s fastest-growing industries.


  • guest 5

    The Citizens United decision was a disgrace on the whole American nation. We now have multiple inanimate organizations including corporate insurance companies and boards of directors or committees unspecified spending money on what THEY ANONYMOUSLY perceicve is good for them, and do not have to expalin that thier views may have other interests to those of,by and for, the people as whole.
    On the basis of freedom of speech sort of fine but why should as an example shareholders of company X individually get to vote for a party that supports thier individual interests and then be able to finance candidates advertise in support of that without telling the rest of us who is paying and why!! I dont care whether you are democrat or Republican if as an individual I am limited to X$ and these guys can spend as much as they like as corporate entities, Pacs, charities, religious bodies which more than double thje money influence I say its undue influence of money on politics and not free speech, when I speak everyone know who said it these Citizens United rules are the end of real democracy in America just money money money counts.
    Get real with all the Billions being spent just on lobbying and elections just think if we say no and tax it as corporate income how much we can reduce the deficit!!

  • Markus Maleek

    I couldn’t agree more. What on earth were those justices thinking? And how on earth is it that congress hasn’t taken swift and decisive action? We are about to watch this country truly turn from democracy to plutocracy. I even wonder if maybe one or more of the justices were bought. It seems like the only explanation.

  • Val

    I applaud Need to Know for airing this informative segment about the growing influx of special interest money into our electoral system. It is clear that the Citizens United decision is already having a tremendous impact on this year’s midterm elections, with corporate money now flowing freely and–for the most part–anonymously into negative attack ads. This could very well be the most critical issue of our time. To stay informed and see what you can do, check out the Facebook group “Our Voice, Our Choice.”

  • Cannedheat

    There is no liberal media, because is control by the conservatives. This pains me that Americans are being fooled by these ads because they are short, quick, and one sided. The liberal media do not exists.

  • Eric

    I’m very much aware of the mixed reception of the recent Citizens United case. Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), John McCain (R-AZ), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) voicing displeasure in the court’s ruling… former presidential candidate Ralph Nader (Independant Party) wasn’t pleased with the court’s ruling either… President Obama criticizing the court’s ruling in the State of the Union Address.

    Ralph Nader pointed out this Supreme Court ruling making it more difficult for minority political parties (Independant, Reform, Libertarian, Green, etc.) to compete with the established political parties (Republican and Democrat). True, because it seems as if the minority parties are constantly getting over-looked, while the established parties get most/all the attention in the main-stream media.

    I remember Bill Moyers focusing on the Citizens United case on his former PBS show (Bill Moyers Journal)… and this story being very much relevant. Moyers dared to tackle this story, examining the fairness of the judicial branch of government, and the future of democracy.

  • Debbie Leach

    I notice that comments on union funding of campaign ads are largely ignored and only the organizations leaning to either Republican or conservative views are questioned. When you can include both sides evenly and note the amounts spent by unions such as AFL-CIO, AFSCME, UAW, IBEW and all union spending which I believe is upwards of 250 million – 8 times Rove’s American Crossroads then perhaps there will be more credence behind your report.As I recall, PBS and NPR are funded primarily by the federal government then by private donations. Since Democrats have a tendency to spend more on government sponsored art than Republicans, it seems likely that employees of those organizations have skin in the midterm election results. As such, the organizations’ political leanings should be weighted when considering this report.