NOW with Alex Wagner | July 19, 2012
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>>> the superpacs supporting president obama got a seven figure influx of cash. actor morgan freeman cut a check for $1 million to priorities usa. politico's intrepid maggie haberman writes about the big democratic donors shunning superpacs. the suspected reasons for holding back include disagreement with citizens united , superpac's mention for negative advertising and administration's record with specific interest groups or simply disillusionment with the president, himself. an article in "the new york times" this weekend argues superpacs may not have a big impact on the presidential race . he writes, where a lot of house seats in control of the senate hang in the balance a sharp gust of advertising can often blow the results in one direction or another. but a presidential campaign is different. there's probably a limit to how many 30-second spots all of these groups can cram on to cable stations during late night showings of " turner & hooch ." what about late night showings of adventure in baby sitting? would that be a bigger bang for the buck ? i'm of course kidding.
>> i don't know if it's nice for morgan freeman to help out. i don't know if that's the answer. $1 million from hollywood guys. richard will tell you from talking to the obama campaign people, they're paying themselves as financial underdogs. david axelrod will show you the charts when third party groups and romney campaign raised $1.2 billion. they're saying we're the guys without the money in this. you're going to be hitting the airwaves for the next couple months, we're the underdogs.
>> patricia, matt makes an interesting point which is not one that's been discussed a lot although to some degree the re- election campaign has talked about the down-ballot effect, vis-a-vis super pacs . if races are going to be swayed in this election, it's likely the ones who have smaller dollar amounts at play, where cross roads can really make a --
>> oh, yeah. look at just the florida senate race, for example. bill nelson down there has doubled the amount of money that connie mack has raised. connie mack who's the republican has gotten a huge multimillion dollar infusion from an outside group. now he has more money than bill nelson who has been raising this in $2,000 increments. the superpac money can absolutely sway these races and republicans are just as interested in getting republican senate as they are in getting a republican white house . absolutely crucial. i don't think i agree that superpac money won't have an effect on the presidential ration, though. i think you get into state by state race, state by state ballots, they can absolutely have an effect and i think they will and i think they'll help republicans.
>> turner & hooch be damned. one persistent fear you hear from liberals is citizens united altered the balance between the parties in a permanent way, corporate money will give republicans a structural advantage that will never be overcome. more likely, the boom in outside money will prove to be cyclical with the momentum swinging toward whoever feels shut out and persecuted at the moment. what do you make of that?
>> i think both of his points are wrong. i think, in fact, the superpac money can make a big difference. as you just said. a state by state basis in the race. we're talking about the biggest sums of money ever coming from individual forces in million-dollar checks. with the least transparency that we've ever had about who's giving it and how it's being spent. so that's alarming just in and of itself. i think in terms of the balance of power , there's no question that wall street tends to favor the gop over time . you'll have a clinton , you'll have an obama who will arrive at times and the balance will shift to some degree because they bet both sides of the aisle. they know they want to be behind whoever the winner is going to be and they're going to make sure that happens. it doesn't mean long term that unions and grassroots organizations and environmental groups are at a severe disadvantage in this climate.
>> yeah, the wall street point i think is an apt one. when you talk about democratic deep pockets and maggie 's story, she talks about a few of the donors who are sitting on the sidelines. george soros , peter lewis . these guys are good at managing money, setting aside the ideological barrier to giving money to superpacs. soros is giving to groups building progressive infrastructure, think tanks , media monitoring , research organizations which is playing the long game here. right?
>> i keep bringing up turner & hooch . there is some notion -- why not keep bringing up turner & hooch ? there is some notion this is all sort of short- game politics versus long game. if you're not making an investment in the american political system , why not look toward 4, 8, 12 years out and build the infrastructure?
>> the troubling thing is some of them are putting their money into things that duplicate what the campaign is doing, like get out the vote efforts. and some of these can become vonvon vanity project . the advantage of the pacs , on the republican side they can do all the negative advertising and the romney campaign can stay on a positive track. you really don't want to smear yourself when you go out and smear someone else. so having that distance is important for obama in 2008 . because of a spending advantage, he could run positive and negative together and balance that with what they were ftrying to do with mccain. in the end, obama has morgan freeman . as far as i can remember, nelson mandela , god, and the president -- so he's got problems.
>> you're impugning morgan freeman 's reputation? wow.
>> going there.
>> just saying.
>> you know, to the hollywood question, willie, there's been a lot of chatter in certain circles that the president has not been clintonian enough in terms of donor management. that's one of the things maggie brings up in her article, you know, clinton was a master for inviting people over for dinner, for a night in the lincoln bedroom . obama has a distaste for that part of the political game and has such sort of maybe lost some of the big fish that otherwise would be, you know, opening up their wallet to morgan freeman , notwithstanding.
>> yeah, i think that's probably, too. i would ask all of you, though, why the big -- why the george soros aren't out there, why isn't there a shelley adelson on the democratic side? the rules of citizens united apply to everybody. people complain about the new york yankees having all the money. you could have all the money, too, you just need a better team and more fans. why don't the democrats have those big money guys or if they have them, why aren't they energized to do what the other side is doing?
>> maggie made the great point that the obama camp made the decision early on to be deeply offended by citizens united and morally against the concept of multimillion dollar donors. so their multimillion dollar donors are like, ehe, okay.
>> the big money in the democratic party was sewn up with the clinton campaign early on. they couldn't raise a lot of money through them. they raised a lot through grassroots. a lot of them have become ambassadors. there are limits in what you can do when the bigger money people are sitting it out because of different loyalties. they were never part of it to begin with. then there's the wall street side of it. those people are offended by tame efforts to bring wall street back into line. so, you know, there are a number of factors there, but there's something personal, that's part of the industry. and, yeah, there's this disgust. it's also, though, pac, super pacs , we don't want anything to do with them.
>> we didn't get our money honey bill burton on for this segment. he's busy collecting checks for morgan freeman . it is a weird kind of, you know, sel position obama supporting super pacs have to take, we love our existence but you should give us money anyway. we have to leave it there. i'm going to give you a thank you to willie geist for staying up so late into the noon hour. there's a door in the floor that opens up.
>> the viewers have spoken.
>> you're heading off to london.
>> i am.
>> you're going to be holding it down for us on the parallel bars. on the horse.
>> where it's not 5:30 a.m ., it's 10:30 a.m .
>> way too late.
>> that is awesome. enjoy games, my friends. we'll be watching you from over here. catch willie every weekday morning at 5:30 eastern time for of course "way too early."