Friday, November 18, 2011

Recommended podcast: State for Sale

I just listened to a Terry Gross interview of Jane Mayer on her New Yorker article "State for Sale," in which she describes project Red Map, which has the goal of winning control of state legislatures by conservative Republicans. Mayer's article and the interview focus on one state, North Carolina, because it is an important swing state and provides an example of Red Map in action.

She reports that foundations controlled by Art Pope, a discount-store multimillionaire, have spent $35 million pushing a far-right political agenda in North Carolina during the last decade. In 2010, they spent $2.2 million on state legislature elections, defeating 18 of 22 targeted democrats. Republicans now control both both North Carolina legislative houses for the first time since 1870.

There is a lot more in the podcast. For example, Mayer discusses the collaboration between Pope and the Koch brothers, backers of the Tea Party movement, the impact of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling on large, tax-decutible political contributions, and the critical role of state legislatures in Congressional re-districting.

The interview reminded me of an earlier post on James Allworth's Harvard Business Review post suggesting that we may have to choose choose between democracy and captialism and a quote by Supreme Court Judge Louis Brandeis, who stated that "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

It is also noteworthy that Creative Commons founder Larry Lessig, who has shifted his interest from Internet copyright reform to campaign finance reform, offers an antidote to concentrated political influence in his new book, Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It, which is reviewed here.

I feel a little guilty about recommending an explicitly political podcast, but there is a connection between Red Map and the anti-competitive political efforts by large Internet service providers. For example, I doubt that new North Carolina legislature will be supportive of efforts at municipal ownership of local backbones.