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Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is seen at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida August 27, 2012.
Turning into a joke nationally, but taking over state governments
Republican Super PACs didn't have much impact at the presidential level, where basically everyone knew, going into the election, who President Barack Obama is, and he had enough money to get his message out. It's at the state level, where name recognition for and knowledge about legislative candidates is low and where ballot measures with similarly low public awareness can set state law, that those Republican millions could really make a difference. And Democratic donors aren't putting the same priority into state elections, despite the high stakes.

On the Republican side, Ed Gillespie's Republican State Leadership Committee is working with Karl Rove's American Crossroads to take over state governments, with a cadre of big donors chipping in to support their efforts, the New York Times' Nicholas Confessore and Monica Davey report. On the Democratic side, unions focus on state elections, as do a few major donors, but not in the same nationally coordinated way, leaving many elections slipping through the cracks on the Democratic side.

Take Michigan, where Republicans have used the lame duck session to speedily enact a slew of far-right laws they did not talk much about during their election campaigns. Gillespie's group has put $1.6 million into Michigan legislative races, and Gov. Rick Snyder was elected with the help of similar efforts:

In 2010, the Republican Governors Association sponsored $3.5 million worth of television commercials promoting Mr. Snyder and set up a Michigan affiliate that gave $5.2 million to the Michigan Republican Party.

The spending appeared to be part of a money swap that was engineered by the governors’ association, according to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a watchdog organization. The spending by the group almost exactly equaled the amount contributed to it by Michigan donors, replacing money that largely came from Michigan corporate donors and could not legally be given to Michigan candidates with funds from wealthy out-of-state contributors, such as Mr. Perry and David Koch.

Because of Republican efforts like this, and Democratic failure to match them, "Starting next year, Republicans will have one-party control in almost half of the state capitals in the country." Some of that is left over from 2010, but far from all.

Money shouldn't dominate our political system the way it does, of course. But it does. Rich Democrats need to take a page from the Republican book in their funding strategies, if not in anything else.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Dec 17, 2012 at 07:24 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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