I was on the road for a few hours last night and unfortunately missed out on the latest round of "So You Think You Can Beat Barack Obama". Stereotypical liberal that I am, my car radio was instead tuned to NPR and I caught this fascinating interview with billionaire investor Foster Friess.
Friess is one of a handful of rich conservatives reshaping campaign finance. A Rick Santorum supporter, Friess has reportedly provided most of the funds for the Red, White and Blue Fund, the super PAC buying ads on Santorum's behalf. Back when candidate specific super PACs began popping up last year, there was concern that billionaires such as Friess would keep their favored candidate funded with no public scrutiny. Super PACs have looser filing requirements than the actual candidates, only filing reports twice a year and if they wanted these billionaires could funnel money through various organizations, obscuring the original source.
Instead, many such as Friess and Gingrch supporter Sheldon Adelson have stepped forward and made no bones about the money they have kicked in for these new organizations (though it should be noted that the donors to the biggest player, the pro-Romney Restore Our Future, haven't been as forthcoming). Listening to Friess explain it to NPR's Robert Siegel, it's clear why he and Adelson have made little attempt to hide their contributions. Friess sees nothing wrong with the country's extremely wealthy buying all elections. "You know, the Senate is controlled by Democrats. The White House is controlled by the Democrats. We barely have the House," Friess said. "So it looks like we who could be considered wealthy are at a distinct disadvantage when we're competing against all the money from the Service Employees International Union and from all the money where Barack Obama—I think he's going to have about a billion dollars."
For Friess, it's just leveling the playing field. All those pesky small donors who make up the majority of the population are getting in the way of his favorite candidates entering office, so it is only fair for him to utilize his outsized wealth to buy his ideal congress. In fact Friess would prefer to do away with super PACs entirely and just allow donors to contribute unlimited funds to the candidates themselves. "You don't get this whole notion, well, I can't control the people that put up ads for me," Friess said.
Friess sees no distinction between the express advocacy ads super PACs run and the reporting done by NPR or Fox News. "I think you also want to make the point that CNN, for example, is a corporation," he said. "So when they put on a TV show which maybe could show favoritism towards a given candidate or against a given candidate, that certainly could be considered as a political contribution as well." Siegel pushed back and objected to that characterization, but Friess stood firm. It's a ludicrous proposition. Even the most Fox News hating liberal would make a clear distinction between their ideologically titled coverage and the ads run by super PACs.