Cruz-ing for big-money backers

Texas Sen.Ted Cruz thinks he can get himself elected president, and he’s gone to a friendly media outlet to try to gin up good press, give his base a preview of his campaign strategy, and drum up interest among potential staffers and campaign donors.That’s standard procedure by now. But what’s notable about Cruz’s recent decision to give the National Review a look at his nascent presidential campaign machinery is what it reveals about the rapidly changing nature of how big-money political campaigns get financed.

Cruz’s National Review strategy dump isn’t really Cruz fishing for traditional donors, or campaign operatives; it’s an open letter to a few wealthy potential super PAC donors who have the potential to make or break a Cruz-for-president bid. This is how far campaign finance has swung since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the court cases that followed it: Lining up millionaires and billionaires to finance a friendly super PAC has landed at the top of a would-be candidate’s to-do list.

 

The National Review article is a standard strategy piece. It says Cruz is approaching a potential presidential run by saying, “To hell with the independents,” and focusing on animating the Republican base. Cruz’s advisers tell the publication their candidate’s path to victory lies in juicing conservative turnout, and leaning on young people and Jewish and Hispanic voters. “He has already gone to great lengths to court Jews,” the National Review says, “making it clear that he wants their approval, acceptance, and financial support.” The piece name-checks real estate developer Mort Zuckerman, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, and hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt as key Jewish figures Cruz is courting.

Adelson’s name is the tell here. The Dorchester native, who has made billions of dollars operating casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, single-handedly turned Newt Gingrich into a presidential contender three years ago. A super PAC funded by Adelson and his wife bought millions of dollars in television ads in the 2012 Republican primary, boosting Gingrich while attacking the party’s frontrunner, Mitt Romney. The super PAC’s cash infusion resuscitated Gingrich’s moribund candidacy, and propelled Gingrich past Romney in the South Carolina primary.

Adelson’s support for Gingrich came relatively late in the Republican contest, from an organizational standpoint. It wasn’t pre-planned, it came on an ad-hoc basis, and it was eventually overcome by a better candidate, Romney, with a more organized and disciplined network of super PAC supporters. But Gingrich’s brief, Adelson-funded rise was a showcase for the ability of a single wealthy individual to launch a fringe candidate with little formal infrastructure into presidential contention.

Outside super PACs and political nonprofits poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the 2012 presidential contest. And in the two years that have followed, campaign finance has shifted even more strongly in the direction of outside groups funded by wealthy individuals and corporations. In the 2014 midterm races, outside groups outspent political candidates in three dozen congressional races, including in hotly contested Senate races in Colorado, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. Outside super PACs are the new campaign finance committee. And Cruz, for one, appears to be looking to push the super PAC ball further down the field. He’s angling to make himself Newt Gingrich, but with a real organization.

PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

The state Senate has passed a bill similar to the House to allow assisted-living facilities to have liquor licenses.

CASINOS

MGM money will help Springfield speed up construction of a new intermodal station at the Union Station site.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston says a city-owned building at 112 Southampton Street will be renovated to house the homeless, WBUR reports.

The state has chosen 10 Gateway Cities as part of the Transformative Development Initiative to remake their downtown areas through investing in transit-oriented development. The story broke in CommonWealth last week.

Fall River voters head to the polls today to finally put the contentious recall of Mayor Will Flanagan to rest.

The Seaport district could still be a great, vibrant neighborhood — even with bland Houston-inspired architecture, says Paul McMorrow.

Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade committee decides gay is OK (within certain limits).

The Cape Cod Times supports the Orleans police in their bid for a new police station to replace the current building that was once a funeral home.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

The $1.1 trillion spending plan approved by Congress made things awkward for several members of the Massachusetts delegation who had initially cheered its inclusion of projects of theirs. Every member of the Bay State delegation who cast a vote ended up opposing the final bill, citing a variety of poison pills, including the so-called Wall Street giveaway that prompted Elizabeth Warren’s high-profile opposition. The American Spectator’s Betsy McCaughey reads the whole 1,603-page “cromnibus” bill and lays out the winners (big banks, Warren, and incandescent bulb users) and losers (health insurers, the Obamas, and sage grouse.)

The US Senate narrowly confirms Vivek Murthy, a Brigham and Women’s Hospital physician, as the next US Surgeon General, WBUR reports.

ELECTIONS

New York magazine and the Atlantic parse the question, “Are Ted Cruz and Elizabeth Warren the same person?”

Bloomberg Politics examines the hyper-scrutiny of Warren’s choice of verb tense when she says she’s really, really, really not running for president, and points out that Warren told the Globe one year ago, “I pledge to serve out my full term.” Warren poured more cold water on the presidential rumors swirling around her yesterday, saying, “No means no,” but US Rep. Mike Capuano won’t take no for an answer.

OLYMPICS

The US Olympic Committee will decide today whether to proceed to the next stage of selecting a US city to compete for the 2024 Summer Games.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Bruker Co., a Billerica-based maker of scientific instruments, agrees to pay $2.5 million to the US Securities and Exchange Commission for trying to bribe Chinese officials, the Lowell Sun reports.

EDUCATION

Non-tenure faculty at some area colleges and universities are talking up the idea of unionizing.

HEALTH CARE

The MetroWest Daily News looks at substance abuse and the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. News & World Report surveys where the ACA stands in 13 key states around the country with Monday’s open enrollment deadline now passed.

A mumps outbreak hits the NHL, ESPN reports.

TRANSPORTATION

Boston police are investigating three reports of indecent assault involving ride-sharing drivers. The Patrick administration’s proposed new ride-sharing regulations could be a boon to Uber and Lyft, reports the Globe. Meanwhile, Australians learned that there’s nothing like a little hostage-taking terror attack to send the cost of getting an Uber in Sydney into “surge-pricing” territory.

Meet the Author

Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Salem unveils a 212-page report detailing how to protect the city from the effects of climate change, the Salem News reports.

Pepperell officials say a draft wastewater-discharge permit issued by the Environmental Protection Agency sets unrealistically low limits on metals such as lead, copper, and phosphorus, the Lowell Sun reports.

Low gas prices may kill the Keystone XL pipeline project, Governing reports.

The Salem City Council approves a tax deal with Footprint Power, which plans to build a natural gas power plant on the waterfront, the Salem News reports.

MEDIA

A Pittsfield hardware store employee gets his 15 minutes-plus from the Undercover Boss TV program that sends company executives (in this case the True Value CEO) in disguise to critique customer service.