A leading liberal campaign finance reform organization is running a contest for the best user-submitted video on the evils of money in politics. They probably didn’t expect a conservative group to be the contest’s front-runner.
An online advertisement created by the conservative nonprofit group American Commitment attacking the "hypocrisy" of Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer has ten times as many votes as the next most popular video.
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The contest is a project of liberal activist group MoveOn.org and MAYDAY PAC, a super PAC attempting to elect federal candidates who pledge to crack down on political speech.
The contest guidelines call for submissions that stress "the importance of money in politics, and why we need to fundamentally reform the way elections are funded."
"Show us why the issue is important to you and your community, how it relates to other issues you care about, or why everyone should care," its website says.
A panel of left-leaning judges will review the entries with the most votes. MAYDAY will feature the winner on its website, and may air the ad on television "if the data shows it makes sense for the campaigns."
As of Friday afternoon, American Commitment’s video had 1,604 votes. The second-place entry had just 140.
The ad, titled "America’s Biggest Hypocrite," attacks "Tom Steyer’s job-crushing, tax-hiking agenda," and notes that despite being the largest donor to outside spending groups during the 2014 cycle—by a $30 million margin—Steyer has financed ads attacking "out-of-state billionaires."
Steyer, a billionaire from California, funded one such ad backing Iowa Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley (D).
American Commitment president Phil Kerpen touted the promising vote tallies for his contest entry in a press release this week.
"We’ve looked at the other entries and are confident that if this is an honest contest and not a partisan charade, our entry will easily win," Kerpen said.
While MAYDAY probably did not expect a conservative ad to dominate the contest, Kerpen said Steyer embodies the trend that the group is seeking to combat.
"The winning entry in this contest should be about America’s number one fatcat campaign contributor, Tom Steyer—and we have submitted an entry to shine a spotlight on him and on the role hypocritical liberal billionaire contributors play in stoking feigned outrage about conservative donors," he said in his release.
Steyer has contributed more than $42 million to outside spending groups during the 2014 cycle, roughly as much as the top 33 Republican-leaning donors combined, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
MAYDAY couches its opposition to political spending in nonpartisan terms, and the group has backed some long-shot Republican candidates who share its concerns.
However, its leader, Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig, has admitted that he sees campaign finance reform as a means to kneecap political opposition to left-wing political goals such as carbon emission restrictions and Internet regulation.
Other leading campaign finance reform advocates, including congressional backers of a recent push to amend the Bill of Rights for the first time in American history, have also framed the effort as a means to facilitate key pillars of the Democratic Party’s policy agenda.