The Iowa Caucus

Bill Ritter's daily take on the news.

January 3, 2012 1:47:51 PM PST
The real story out of Iowa tonight may not be who wins or comes in second or third (and calls it a victory), or who loses.

The real story may be the millions spent on TV ads - negative ads paid for not by the candidates themselves but by "Super Political Action Committees" with no legally direct ties to the candidates.

No legally direct ties, but plenty of politically direct ties.

And you can thank your U.S. Supreme Court.

The high court's decision in 2010 opened up the process of political contributions and sealed shut the process of disclosure.

Contribute to a candidate? Tough limits and strict disclosures.

Contribute to a PAC controlled by people friendly to the candidate? No limits, no disclosures.

And that's why these Super Pacs have spent $13 million so far on the early primaries, and that's why a guy like Mitt Romney can have his campaign run all the positive ads, and his friendly PAC spend money from folks and companies that we can't possibly know about and run ads blasting his opponents.

Romney makes nicey-nice. His PAC ads play Darth Vader.

It just seems so - what's the word? - undemocratic. Not the negative ad part - voters will decide whether those are effective or not. It's the lack of disclosure and openness. It's exactly this kind of secret contributions that led to that little scandal we like to call Watergate 40 years ago. The reforms that started after the Nixon scandal changed the political contribution landscape over the years. Now we've shut the cellar door again, and the lack of sunlight is blinding.

I'm just sayin.'

Having said that, the political primary season officially starts tonight, with the Iowa caucuses. A strange event to be sure. Not a vote, so it's just plain wrong to call it an election. It's about 150,000 people - that's it - writing the name of their favorite candidate on a blank piece of paper.

No voting booths. No levers, manual or electronic. No voting. Just writing a name.

Not exactly state-of-the-art, and given Iowa's demographics, not exactly representative of the rest of the country.

But it is round-one of the Presidential primary season, and so it's exciting on so many levels.

Our political reporter Dave Evans is in Iowa and will have results, tonight at 11. And throughout the night, Diane Sawyer will have updates from ABC News about the caucus results.

And this just in from the political front: TV Evangelist and former Presidential candidate Pat Robertson now says, "God has told me who the next president is ..."

But ABC says Robertson's not telling anyone, saying he's going to "leave everyone in the dark about it." It's unclear whether his producers asked him to keep it a secret or if some higher source asked him to.

Also at 11, a man wanted for 5 firebomb attacks in Queens and on Long Island has reportedly confessed to the crimes. There are several Muslim sites involved - but there's little connective political tissue. Cops say he had personal grievances with each of the victims - meaning this was not a series of bias attacks as originally feared.

And Consumer Reports tonight takes a not-so-pretty look at those supposed great airfares available. We say "supposed" because if you've tried to get some of the offers that sound great, you quickly realize you can be disappointed.

And finally, the most controversial and expensive Broadway musical - has now set a record. The once-largely mocked Spider Man, Turn Off The Dark production last week set a one-week box-office record - $2.9 million over nine performances.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Meteorologist Jeff Smith (in for Lee Goldberg) with his AccuWeather forecast, and Rob Powers with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa and me, tonight at 11.


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