The Washington Post should give itself a few Pinocchios

The Washington Post's Josh Hicks has given President Obama two Pinocchios on his claim that the dramatic increase in interest-group advertising manifested in the election cycle so far is a threat to a fair election. Specifically, Hicks doesn't like the use of the graphic (represented partially to the right) by the President's campaign. The specific claim of the graphic? That there is a 1600% increase in ad-spending by interest groups, thanks to the Supreme Court's anti-democratic Citizens United ruling.

Here comes the funny. Hicks says the President is "misleading" voters with that graphic, and here is his undeniable, numeric, mathematical slam dunk evidence to prove that he's got the goods on Obama.
That being said, the president’s campaign got its numbers right. The number of pro-Republican interest group advertisements increased from 1,763 in January 2008 to 30,442 during the same period in 2012, representing a 1,600 percent increase.
Wait, what? The President's campaign got its numbers right? WTF? So what is this Pinocchio business about?

It's about muddying the waters to make it look like the uncontrolled corporate spending in our elections is just an innocent victim of our vicious political rhetoric, of course. Hicks goes on to make his point, missing the entire point of what the threat really is about.
By comparison, the number of candidate-sponsored ads dropped from 66,557 to 39,429, representing a decline of nearly 41 percent.

But what does this mean? Not much in terms of the total Republican ads aired during that span. The Wesleyan report shows that the total increased only 2 percent, so the difference was negligible.
Then he goes on to argue how the president, even though he is attacked, has and will have enough money to fight back. Talk about missing the point. See, Hicks doesn't see the threat to a fair election given that the total number of pro-GOP political ads has "only" risen by 2% from 4 years ago, despite the fact that campaigns get a lower rate for advertising on television than these outside groups do. This, my friends, is the result of living in the beltway media bubble for way too long.

Hicks all but ignores the very real difference between the last time and now as to who is paying for the ads. That special interest Super PACs have been able to not only make up for but exceed the gap left by the drop in campaign-sponsored ads - despite having to pay higher rates for ads - is an existential threat to our democracy. Unlike campaigns, Super PACs are not bound by contribution limits. An analysis by the Sunlight Foundation shows that of the $63 million raised by Super PACs in 2011, nearly half were donated by just 22 donors giving more than a half a million dollars a piece. In fact, nearly a quarter - or $15 million - were donated by six donors (not six hundred thousand, not six thousand, just six) giving more than $1 million a piece, and the entirety of the $63 million came from just 714 donors. If you are counting, that's an average donation of more than $88,000 per giver. To raise the same amount of money, a campaign would need 12,579 donors even if every single donor gave the maximum $2500 for the primary and the maximum $2500 for the general election.

And this is only the beginning.There is no telling where this will go once the general election campaign starts in earnest.

That's what's been funding the special interest advertising - a grand total of 714 people. And that's how completely wingnut candidates with no organization, no campaign cash and little public support have been able to sustain their campaigns - at the behest of these uber rich donors. This is a wholesale selling of our democracy. The threat is that just a few individuals and corporations with extraordinary wealth can shape our election. The threat is that big money has a whole new definition this election cycle. That is the very definition of a threat to a fair election.

Evidently, our democracy being bought and sold by a few millionaires and billionaires does not make a chill go down the spine of Josh Hicks or the Washington Post editorial board, who allow this kind of slime on their newspaper. In fact, Hicks is rather annoyed that the president's campaign uses "alarming language" to describe the outsized, corrupting influence of big money on the post-Citizens United election landscape. That's what's so sad - that a beltway pundit, in the know about the march of big money to choke our democracy, not only isn't sounding the alarm himself, but dares to go out and give "Pinocchios" to anyone who is. Looking at the data and the current state of the primary election, anyone not sounding the alarm is either not paying attention or hoping to benefit from an oligarchical election process.

So to Josh Hicks and The Washington Post: here is my Pinocchio rating for you.