If Robin Kelly wins Tuesday’s Democratic primary in the 2nd District special election, she should serve under the title Rep. Robin Kelly, D-N.Y.
The race is so awash in money from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Independence USA PAC that it can hardly be considered a local election. After spending millions of dollars on ads attacking Debbie Halvorson and Toi Hutchinson for not sharing Bloomberg’s stance on gun control, the PAC is now running an ad endorsing Kelly. Bloomberg’s money drove Hutchinson out of the race, in the process embarrassing Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, who had endorsed the state senator.
As The Atlantic Wire pointed out, though, the ascendance of Super PACs means there may no longer be local elections, because, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, millionaires and billionaires can now outspend all but the richest candidates, as long as they launder their money through a PAC.
Almost by himself, Bloomberg has made this single election one of the most expensive Congressional campaigns of this cycle — and we haven't even seen this race's primary, which is scheduled for February 26. Counting Bloomberg's massive spend, the race has accumulated about $3 million total from out-of-state sources, placing it in the top 10 percent of 2012 Congressional races.
This is, of course, a testament to the power of so-called Super PACs, which grew out of the 2010 Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission...As the Center for Public Integrity put it,
The first congressional contest of the 2014 election cycle may be emblematic of a new norm in House races, where cash-flush super PACs and politically active nonprofit groups easily outspend candidates. And given the Illinois race and the GOP intra-party fights in 2012, spending won't be reserved for the general election, either.
And then there's the bigger picture: Bloomberg's strategy serves a vivid reminder of the odd consequences of letting wealthy individuals spend as much as they want to influence the country's political system.
The only major candidate in this race who hasn’t either been bought off or run over by an out-of-state interest group is Ald. Anthony Beale. Beale escaped Bloomberg’s condemnation because, unlike Halvorson and Hutchinson, he’s never received an “A” rating from the NRA. But he’s also escaped Bloomberg’s commendation. The millionaire mayor is ignoring him. That may be an endorsement right there, if you care about keeping local races local.