MHP   |  October 27, 2012

Campaigns surpass $2 billion fundraising milestone

The presidential campaigns have officially surpassed the billion dollar mark in election fundraising - two times over. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream; political commentator Valarie Kaur, the Public Campaign Action Fund’s David Donnelly, and Republican analyst Leslie Sanchez join Melissa Harris-Perry to talk about the state of campaign finance.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> it's just common sense.

>>> this morning, my question. what is the strategy for election protection? plus, even if this scares you, you've got to accept it. our national fate rests in the hands of the young. and i've been a college professor for 15 years, but it turns out i know very little about college. but first, how much money would it take to buy your vote?

>>> good morning. i'm melissa harris-perry. before we get to politics this morning, i want to give you a quick update on sandy. the storm which overnight had been downgraded to tropical storm status is now back to hurricane-force winds. sandy will continue moving away from the northwest this morning and move parallel to the southeast coast of the united states through the weekend. serious and life-threatening weather conditions are expected as early as tomorrow evening from outer banks to new england. new york, pennsylvania, maryland, virginia and north carolina plus the district of column yeah have already declared states of emergency . a tropical storm warning is in effect for parts of florida. we'll have more updates on sandy later in the program. right now i want to turn to politics. this, my friends, is $26.86. $26.86, not a hunl amount of money. certainly not enough for a spiffy new iphone 5. it will get you plenty of itunes downloads. not enough to take the whole family to the movies, but you could probably treat yourself to lunch at applebee's. imagine that $26.86 compounded every second. that is $1,611.60 a minute. that's $96,696 an hour or $2.3 million a day. suddenly $26.86 doesn't seem so modest because $26.86 is how much both candidates combined are spending every second of every day this election cycle which is why on thursday, we cross a milestone in american politics . a big fat $2 billion milestone. the 2012 presidential election has officially become the billion dollar race twice. in the first two weeks of this month alone, president obama , the dnc and related fund-raising committees have raked in $88.8 million. not to be out done, mitt romney 's fund-raising machine and his friends rauld in $111.8 million. what's all that cash buying? the candidates hope these dollars are going to buy your votes. in these ninl super heated days of campaigning, they are raining down e-mails on their donor lifts, multiple times every day. each message promises for a small donation, maybe 26 bucks, you can help to ensure victory for your presidential candidate . for a few dollars more, maybe 86 cents you can a helpful majority in congress, too. what a bargain! government for sale for the low, low price of $26.86 a second. of course, these dollars don't buy votes directly, they buy fancy rallies, irritating phone calls, direct mailing and tv ads. 900,000 ads have aired in the general election race for the president so far. in the first weeks of this month, that means 112,000 pro president obama ads blanketed the air adds and 97,000 pro romney ads reached your television sets. a 45% increase from the number that ran in 2008 . for the next ten days, 43,000 political ads will air each day. but with numbers this big, nearly $27 a second, maybe we've reached saturation. if you've seen 42,000 ads, do 43,000 really make a difference? just ask coke and pepsi if they think advertising dollars matter. money can change preferences which is just what the campaigns are hoping what will happen in ohio where, let's face it, votes are definitely worth more. $177 million have been poured into the buckeye state to impress dwing voters in dayton, columbus and cincinnati. ohio has overtaken florida as the state that has seen the most money in the presidential election . this week ohio went platinum, $175 million in spending in a seven difficult period. polls show much of the lech tart is concerned about the new heights of giving and expending. but who can hear their concern over the sound of all that cash raining down. today adjusted for inflation the most expensive race per vote is the 1896 presidential race of the two williams. karl rove 's hero mark hannah helped william mckinley garner 51% of the vote by outspending william jennings bryant , smushing that william into the ground. all these years later we still haven't topped hannah. one political scientists at the university of denver spent time to calculate exactly how much each vote cost. in 1896 each vote was worth approximately $15 of today's money. 116 years after the record was set, get ready for a new one, because 2012 looks to be the year when campaigns and outside groups combined spend more than $25 per american voter. $25 a voter, 26 bucks a second, it all leads me to ask, is your vote for sale. if it is, what does it cost our democracy? at the table ben cohen , co-founder of none other than ben & jerry's ice cream and head stam per, devoted to bringing awareness to money in politics. valer valerie core, david donnelly, executive director of the public campaign action fund and lesley sanchez, author of "you've come a long way baby." thanks to my panel for being here this morning. as we were doing these calculations, i just kept thinking, i cannot believe that it is this expensive. are people's votes simply for sale?

>> i don't think they're for sale. i think the amount of money in politician is disgusting to a lot of people. they don't want to see excessive campaign spending, particularly all these advertising raining down in the campaign. i do think that they're more worried about where the money is coming from because it's not coming from them. it's coming from very wealthy interests, those that can give $25 per person which is what you can give to candidate, those are not average americans. it's a very small slice of the american public. when you see facts like this past week when chevron dumped $2.5 million from its corporate treasuries into super pac, then americans wonder whether elections is for sale, whether government is for sale rather than their votes.

>> these numbers for me were just stunning. say given almost -- we just passed the $2 billion that president barack obama is the candidate who has drawn the most shadow money, this kind of quiet money. supporters, shadow money supporters, $1.1 million. shadow money opposition to the president $74.1 million. and it's shadow money.

>> with the amount of money in elections has always been troubling, but the massive amount of spending from corporate and special interest groups , this shadow money in this election is completely demoralizing to me. to bring this issue home, i think about my neighborhood in new haven --

>> we're having a mic problem. we're going to come back with you. i want these insights, but i want my audience to be able to hear it.

>> ben, you're a businessman and have a social vision for the world. but this now is a critical issue for you. talk to me about -- valerie at the beginning was saying it's demoralizing to think about how much money is in the system. what's the work you're doing around this?

>> we're trying to get money out of politics in general, especially big money out of politics. i don't think the issue is the huge total amount of money that's in politics. i think the issue is that the major contributions to these candidates and pacs are coming from corporations that are doing it because they have a particular agenda. it's companying out of the corporate treasury because there's a corporate purpose. and the corporate purpose is they want legislation passed that's going to benefit their own narrow self-interests. that's what's screwing up the country.

>> leslie, i think that's what fuels anxiety producing across parties. you and i come from different ideological positions. that doesn't mean we wouldn't both be very concerned about the idea, not only that votes are for sale, but ultimately that the candidates are for sale and that will make a difference in how they govern.

>> i think two parts to that. one, this is not a cottage industry where we're talking about company finance, political ads. it is basically massively running off the rails. there's a lot of public scrutiny on the right and the lecht. you've lookedality everybody from senator mccain who has talked about campaign finance reform . the problem is it's political gamesmanship as opposed to actual reform. you talk about decision closure. there's a lot of people when you look at big labor that would be under the threshold. i'm saying without sparking the debate, which i'm sure we'll have, is that people want to know where the dollars are coming from, who sin vested but on both sides. you can't hide it or mask it.

>> when we come back, we'll talk about where exactly is the money coming from. i want to talk and citizens united and 501(c)(4)s as well. valley, i want to fix your mic and get you back in. when we're back, i want to ask about karl rove , the man with the cash, way more than $26, making it rain on the campaign. i have a