I can’t find much this morning to work with, so I recommend a couple of New York Times looks at Republican governors.
* Frank Bruni writes about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who gets along with Democrats and Republicans in part by avoiding harsh partisanship in a generally Democratic state. He’s taken some positive steps on the environment and avoided LGBT persecution, to name two ways in which he departs from the GOP DIxie Division playbook.
“He’s never once mentioned what I call a cultural issue: gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage,” the Maryland Comptroller, Peter Franchot, a Democrat, told me. “He’s moderate in his rhetoric and he’s moderate in his choice of issues.”
* A major article focuses on the essential purchase of the Illinois governorship by hedge fund millionaires. Their candidate is a $500 million financier himself, Bruce Rauner.
The Illinois governorship serves as an illustration of the use of concentrated wealth around the country (Koch and Walton money in Arkansas has achieved vast legislative influence for a relatively small sum) to implement political agendas.
The families remaking Illinois are among a small group around the country who have channeled their extraordinary wealth into political power, taking advantage of regulatory, legal and cultural shifts that have carved new paths for infusing money into campaigns. Economic winners in an age of rising inequality, operating largely out of public view, they are reshaping government with fortunes so large as to defy the ordinary financial scale of politics. In the 2016 presidential race, a New York Times analysis found last month, just 158 families had provided nearly half of the early campaign money.
Many of those giving, like Mr. Griffin, come from the world of finance, an industry that has yielded more of the new political wealth than any other. The Florida-based leveraged-buyout pioneer John Childs, the private equity investor Sam Zell and Paul Singer, a prominent New York hedge fund manager, all helped elect Mr. Rauner, as did Richard Uihlein, a conservative businessman from the Chicago suburbs.
Most of them lean Republican; some are Democrats. But to a remarkable degree, their philosophies are becoming part of a widely adopted blueprint for public officials around the country: Critical of the power of unions, many are also determined to reduce spending and taxation, and are skeptical of government-led efforts to mitigate the growing gap between the rich and everyone else.
Ten people accounted for more than $30 million in spending on Rauner’s campaign. Then they kept piling n the money to influence the governor’s work with the legislature. A single contributor spent $13.6 million on Rauner’s efforts.
The agenda: Cut taxes, tort reform, kill unions. The pitch (being peddled by Kochs and Gov. Hutchinson in Arkansas): growth in revenue from a rising tide of prosperity will replace the tax cuts. It didn’t work out that way in Kansas, but …..
Polling shows Rauner isn’t popular now. Why? Well the common folks are finding some differences with the outlook of the wealthy.
Where merely affluent Americans are more likely to identify as Democrats than as Republicans, the ultrawealthy overwhelmingly leaned right. They are far more likely to raise money for politicians and to have access to them; nearly half had personally contacted one of Illinois’s two United States senators.
Where the general public overwhelmingly supports a high minimum wage, the one percent are broadly opposed. A majority of Americans supported expanding safety-net and retirement programs, while most of the very wealthy opposed them. And while Americans are not enthusiastic about higher taxes generally, they feel strongly that the rich should pay more than they do, and more than everyone else pays.
One interesting offshoot in Illinois is the rise of spending by well-off Democrats, a kind of third way approach. Elect Democrats who can work with Rauner. That was the Arkansas way for many years, until the simplified social gospel of the Republican, combined with a black president, unleashed the red tide.