Over at Washington Monthly, Ed Gilgore laments about last night’s Kentucky primary:
The one interesting result from last night was a surprisingly easy primary win for a protege of Rand Paul’s in an open Republican congressional district in Kentucky. But Paul had some outside help. You think Super PACs are having an impact on presidential politics? Check this out from the Louisville Courier-Journal . . .
Here’s Kilgore’s excerpt from the Courier-Journal article:
[Thomas] Massie came into the race largely unknown in the district’s population center of Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties but was able to overcome his lack of name recognition by scoring a couple of big name endorsements and getting the backing of several tea party organizations.
He also got more than $500,000 worth of backing from a super PAC called Liberty for All, which was funded almost entirely by a 21-year-old Texas college student with an inheritance. The group ran ads supporting Massie and criticizing Webb-Edgington and Moore.
Marc Wilson, a supporter of Webb-Edgington, criticized the group after the ballots were counted.
“It’s a shame that a Texas libertarian super PAC could come in and invade the Republican Party to buy a congressional seat,” he said.
Wow. Wonder if the kid down in Texas turned in a term paper to his poli sci class entitled “How I bought a congressional seat in Kentucky.”
Hmm. Well instead of tossing off unhelpful descriptors like “Rand Paul protege,” let’s look more closely at the candidates’ actual records and positions. Mike Riggs profiled Thomas Massie for Reason a few months ago. Some highlights:
Immediately after winning the election for judge executive in 2010 (a position similar to county manager), Massie began eliminating waste. “None of that necessarily included any layoffs or anything,” Hogan says. “It was just going through the phone bill for phone lines that weren’t connected anymore, electrical meters that weren’t hooked up.” Massie also cancelled a deal between Lewis County and a railroad company after learning that the county was paying to lease land that the railroad had sold nearly 20 years ago. “The county had just been paying this money to the railroad company,” Hogan says. “Thomas could never get a response out of them. So he didn’t pay the bill.” When the railroad called asking for rent, Thomas asked for the county’s money back.
So he put an end to his local government handing free money over to a corporation. And he made sure the local government wasn’t paying for phone lines and utilities that were no longer functional. He also stopped a county treasurer from using taxpayer funds to replenish the gravel in her driveway. What a right-wing nut!
More from Riggs:
Massie’s small-government instincts extend far beyond keeping a tight grip on the checkbook. He’s also opposed to the PATRIOT Act, warrantless wiretapping, the police state, the drug war, and military adventurism.
Huh. If you’re a progressive, on these issues Massie is a sight better than most Democrats in Congress, no?
So what about establishment GOP candidate Alecia Webb-Edgington, the party favorite from whom Massie and his super PAC money allegedly stole this nomination?
A former member of the Kentucky State Police and the Department of Homeland Security, Webb-Edgington also helped launch Kentucky’s DHS-funded Fusion Center and told the crowd at a 2010 Lincoln Dinner, “We don’t need any more socialists, communists, or libertarians in the Republican Party.”
Webb-Eddington has also made deporting more immigrants a central part of her campaign.
On social issues, the two are virtually the same. Both are pro-life, favor fewer gun restrictions, and oppose gay marriage. So let’s call that a wash.
So what happened last night, then, is that instead of an establishment, party machine GOP operative who supports the Homeland Security-industrial state, Kentucky got a waste-cutting opponent of the PATRIOT ACT and other war-on-terror government power who also wants to end pointless wars, repeal drug prohibition, and has a record of tackling corruption. Given that the GOP nominee will be the favorite in November, you’d think Massie’s victory would be something a progressive like Kilgore could appreciate.
Kilgore is right on one point. Without the half million dollar infusion from the super PAC, it’s doubtful Massie would have won. And that of course is precisely the point. Strict limits on campaign contributions only further entrench the two major parties. If your views aren’t in line with establishment thinking, if the party machinery has backed a more traditional candidate with predictable positions, you’ll be starting your campaign in a hole. They have the phone lists, the donor lists, the existing office holders and the perks of their offices, name recognition, and the campaign infrastructure. It takes money to overcome all of that. It takes money to merely be heard. Take all the money out of politics (assuming you could—you can’t) and the two-party machinery advantages don’t go away. It just makes it more difficult to challenge them.
So I’d ask Ed Kilgore: Let’s assume the GOP nominee wins this seat in November. Aren’t progressives better off with Thomas Massie in Congress than with Alecia Webb-Edgington? And if super PAC spending is the reason why that’s now likely to happen, how does particular race illustrate the perils of unlimited campaign spending?