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Strom: Money is bad! Money is good!

It’s a perennial complaint from the left: Politics is awash in “big money,” and something has to be done about it.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and just about every Washington Democrat regularly attack the baleful influence of the Koch brothers and their big money. (Tip: the Koch brothers barely register in the lists of major political donors, but they are among the most prominent Republican donors.) The IRS has gotten itself into hot water for regularly failing to approve conservative-leaning groups’ applications for nonprofit status, while fast-tracking those of liberal groups.

Despite their short-lived — and feigned — outrage at IRS abuses of power, many prominent Democrats publicly prodded the IRS to harass conservative nonprofits because they were unduly influencing the political process.

And, of course, we are treated to harangues about the evils of the Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which allowed corporations to spend money on political speech.

To hear the left tell it, they are the plucky little Davids against a growing tide of conservative corporate cash threatening to drown politics in oligarchic money.

The story is, of course, complete BS. In fact, the left has far more money from all sources, including billionaires, corporations, nonprofits and unions than conservatives could ever dream of.

This isn’t conservative fantasy. According to a recent analysis by the Associated Press, of the nearly $1 billion raised so far to influence the 2014 elections, liberal groups have a nearly 3 to 1 advantage in money raised.

Three to one. That is what I would call a pretty substantial advantage. And it is neither an accident, nor an indication that the country leans approximate 3 to 1 liberal.

These results are a product of a well thought-out and successful campaign to cripple the fundraising efforts of conservatives, demonize and intimidate conservative donors, and use laws, rules, regulations, media pressure and political favoritism to stack the deck in favor of liberal money collection for politics.

I worked on the Tom Emmer for Governor campaign, and I got to see the effects of these facts up close and personal.

Mark Dayton was running a proudly anti-business campaign, and despite some misgivings, a number of the largest Minnesota corporations decided to band together to run some advertisements for the Emmer campaign.

Target, among other corporations, contributed to the effort. As you may recall Target suffered through a coordinated and successful campaign to back off from political giving, and wound up apologizing for trying to protect their bottom line. They were the focus of protests, boycotts, negative TV coverage, and public shaming. One of the most gay-friendly corporations in America was lambasted for being supporters of hatred against gays. The city of San Francisco actually debated banning Target from building new stores within city limits.

The result? Liberal vs. conservative spending — effectively pro-Dayton vs pro-Emmer spending — ran about 3 to 1 in favor of Dayton. He won by 9,000 votes, aided mightily by that money advantage.

Conservatives are always playing defense against such efforts and are losing the battle badly.

There are a number of reasons for this, of course, and not all of them are due to excessive piety or liberal conspiracy.

But a lot of them are. Conservatives as a rule haven’t used bullying tactics against liberal donors, and doing so runs entirely counter to conservative principles. Most large corporations today are actively in favor of gay marriage and amnesty for illegal immigrants — stances at odds with the views of most conservatives — but there is a stark absence of protests, calls for resignations, boycotts, or other public and financial pressure applied to those corporations from conservatives.

Conservatives buy iPhones, iPads, and Macs (all three are in our home), despite the fact that Apple’s CEO is one of the most vocal gay rights advocates in the country — as is his right.

Brendan Eich, the former CEO of Mozilla and the inventor of javascript, one of the most important languages of modern computing, is out of a job, though, because he gave $1,000 to support a constitutional measure in California to define marriage as one man and one woman — a position held by almost every Democrat in the country in 2008, and one supported by a majority of Californians.

Liberal protestations about the baleful influence of money on politics are not simply false and hypocritical. They are a direct attack on American democracy that uses the power of government and intimidation tactics to stack the deck against their political opponents. The use of government power to shut down the opposition is illegal, unconstitutional and anti-democratic. And standard practice for liberals these days.

I never thought I would see the day when a majority leader in the United States Senate would walk to the podium in the U.S. Capitol and denounce the political giving of private U.S. citizens with whom he disagrees. And soon thereafter fundraise for his own causes.

I expect to hear more attacks against conservative donors in the coming months, and more corporate purges of conservatives to appease liberal activists. It is the new way of the world, and one we should all lament.

I also expect to see massive spending on behalf of Mark Dayton by Alliance for a Better Minnesota, and lots of celebrations of Mike Bloomberg’s public spiritedness for spending $50 million in his fight for a liberal cause. That, too, is the way of the world.

David Strom is a senior policy fellow at the Center of the American Experiment, and principal of Think Write Do, a public affairs consulting firm.  

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