The Outlook For District 17 - saturation media blitz
On January 21, the paradigm of partisan politics shifted on its
axis by 180 degrees.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled five to four that not only is a
corporation just another person with all the powers and
privileges of any person to sell, buy, lease, rent, issue
securities, borrow, lend, manufacture, market or license others
to do the same, it also has the near-absolute privilege of the
freedom of expression under the First Amendment to the U.S.
It is a complete reversal of a body of law that was enacted
during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration to limit the power
of corporations to endorse and advertise their preference for
candidates in Federal elections.
What this means to voters is that they will soon be hearing from
major American and multinational corporations in saturation
advertising going into the primary elections on March 2.
All such expression had been previously disallowed by campaign
finance laws enforced by the Federal Election Commission.
President Obama called it "a major victory for big oil, Wall
Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful
interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to
drown out the voices of everyday Americans."
The Justice who wrote the controlling majority opinion in
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission differed in his
estimation of corporate privilege in this way.
"If the First Amendment has any force," Justice Anthony M.
Kennedy wrote for the majority, which included the four members
of the court's conservative wing, "it prohibits Congress from
fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for
simply engaging in political speech....
"When government seeks to use its full power, including the
criminal law, to command where a person may get his or her
information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear, it
uses censorship to control thought," Justice Kennedy wrote. "This
is unlawful. The First Amendment confirms the freedom to think
The ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission,
reversed two precedents. They are Austin v. Michigan Chamber of
Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate
spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell
v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the
part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that
restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.
The dispute in Citizens United stemmed from a made-for-sattelite and cable feature length film critical of Presidential Candidate Senator Hillary
Clinton. The decision reversed a holding of the Washington,
D.C., U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals which upheld the FEC regulations.
In the 2008 election cycle, which coincided with the Democratic
Party's victory over Republican candidate John McCain,
Democrats increased their majorities in both chambers. Of the 435
congressional districts, 242 were carried by Obama, while 193
voted for McCain. Of the districts Obama won, 34 elected a
Republican to the House, while 49 of the districts McCain won
elected a Democrat.
In an all-out effort to win back the swing districts they lost in
the two previous elections, Republican operatives are
aggressively targeting districts and states where the Democratic
delegation has been in place for a long time. Both parties have
been preparing to defend seats that they risk losing. Democrats,
who occupy more of the swing districts, are operating more on the
defensive than the Republicans. The Democratic Congressional
Campaign Committee (DCCC) has highlighted 40 Democratic
incumbents at risk in what is called the "Frontline Program."
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has in
turn highlighted 10 Republican incumbents at risk as the "Patriot
Program." They later added 15 additional names to the list,
bringing the total to 25.
Though District 17 is not one of those districts so identified,
it does have a Cook Partisan Voting Index of "R + 20." That is a
figure derived from a formula devised by Charlie Cook of the Cook
Political Report and Polidata, a political statistics and
analysis firm. In the 17th District, Republican Senator John
McCain secured 67 percent of the votes cast against Democrat
Though an estimated 63 percent of registered voters in District
17 are Republican, Democrat Chet Edwards continues to win
election after election.
The index for each Congressional District is calculated by
averaging the two prior presidential elections and comparing them
to national results.
The only Texas Congressional District considered at risk by the
DCCC, the 23rd District represented by Democrat Ciro Rodriguez,
stretches from just east of El Paso to the border city of Del Rio
and takes in Pecos, Ft. Stockton, Uvalde and Cystal City as well
as the Big Bend. The eighth-largest Congressional District in
the U.S., it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of R + 2.
The best-financed candidate in the Republican Primary, Bill
Flores, a retired CEO of a Houston oil and gas exploration firm,
has a war chest of more than $400,000 - $300,000 of which he
contributed from his own funds.
A "Pre-sorted Standard U.S. Postage" campaign mailing received by
targeted voters late last week in the 17th District is a four-
color job on slick card stock that reads this way.
"Make Sure Your Vote Counts! Complete Your Absentee Ballot
Request Form And Return It By February 23.
"If you need an absentee ballot request form, please don't
hesitate to contact our office at 1-888-704-BILL (2455)."
This means that the Flores campaign organization will be taking
on the expense of yet another mailing in response to these
requests in the 17th District, a tactic that is as expensive as
it is aggressive. It is no doubt geared to get out the Republican
early vote before the Primary on March 2.
In all available polls, the Flores organization is reported to
have scored less than 10 percent of voter approval.
The Flores war chest, cash raised for which is reported by the
FEC as $416,466, compares with a total of $138,765 raised by the
Rob Curnock campaign and $122,271 raised by the Chuck Wilson
election committee. Candidate Dave McIntyre has reportedly raised
$123,965, according to the website OpenSecrets.org
These figures compare with a war chest of $1,405,254 reported to
the FEC by Democratic incumbent Chet Edwards.
Republicans estimate that he outspent Republican candidate Rob
Curnock by 23 to one during the 2008 election cycle.