Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Rotten Borough

Readers familiar with British history will know about the old rotten boroughs and pocket boroughs that were eliminated in two waves of Parliamentary reform. These reforms removed a system were representation was bought outright or heavily influenced by the rich and by influential local aristocracy.

Well, the USA has an oligarchy, not a aristocracy, and we have a one-man/one-vote system and secret ballot, so our rotten boroughs operate differently, more via gerrymandering to build in majorities, "safe seats", and political influence via campaign contributions from interest groups and wealthy individuals.

The Ohio 3rd Congressional district has become such a rotten borough.

One can see this by the heavy contributions of special interest groups operating through Political Action Committees (PACS) supporting the GOP representative Mike Turner. Contributions exceeded 1 million dollars for each Turner campaign.

Individual contributions slightly exceeded 50% of the total. Many of these were $1,000 or over, and in some cases represent multiple contributions from family members and business associates so as to circumvent campaign finance law.

There is a loyal opposition to give the illusion of choice, but fundraising patterns indicate that the Democrats have conceded this seat to the Republicans. Note the drop in Democratic PAC contributions by nearly half by the 2004 election.

A somewhat similar, but not gerrymandered, district in Kentucky shows a much more dramatic increase in campagin fundraising by the GOP incumbent, to around $3.4M in her final (losing) election.

One of the differences between KY3 and OH 3 is that white suburbanites in KY3 still vote Democrat, so the GOP incumbent has to put more into advertising and ground organization to overcome this tendancy. The Dems raise a lot of money, too. Note that KY3 Democrat funraising exceeds the GOP in OH 3 in nearly every election, but still couldn't keep up with the GOP.

In the final race the independently wealthy Dem challenger contributed a portion of this own fortune to try to be somewhat competetive (30% of funds raised). Perhaps this was the decide for the '06 race, and that he was an appealing "outside the box" candidate.

Now lets look at the vote % as a contrast between a noncompetetive and a competetive district.

One can see that KY 3 was competetive in 3 elections, moved in the direction of entrenched incumbency in 2004, but went over to the Dems in 2006. In contrast for OH 3, there is a consistent GOP dominance. It's not even close.

Later in the week, a look at gerrymandering in Ohio vs rational districts in Kentucky. This coming weekend stay tuned to whos buying the rotten borough: Special interest GOP money and what it buys.


jafabrit said...

Just wanted to say you have a great blog, very informative insight into the area.

Anonymous said...

Jeff what part of the district carries the vote away from Dayton's democratic base? I guess I am asking if there is enough rural(republican) votes in clinton and highland counties to offset Dayton's base. Also is Old North Dayton cut off from district 3? Sure looks that way on the photos I have seen.

Jefferey said...

"Just wanted to say you have a great blog, very informative insight into the area."

Thanks, I usually dont post much on partisan politics, but since this is a political season I thought it might be fun to look at it closer.

"Jeff what part of the district carries the vote away from Dayton's democratic base?"

I don't know. I expect that Highland and Clinton were added to come up to a certain number. The real GOP numbers are probably in Warren. To really find out one needs to get more granular on the voting patterns.

The district as set up seems to be built around exurban areas and newer suburbs.

In other words, built around urban sprawl.

Turner's contributor community (as shown in the FEC database) reflectS this. Outside of GOP leadership PACs, it's made up in large part by real estate/developer/homebuilder/construction/A&E interests, including construction unions.

These are the people interested in more development and moving people out into new subdivisions and building new shopping centers and so forth.

One has to ask if Turner is really an "urban" congresscritter. I suspect thats just rhetorical window dressing.

Greg Hunter said...

As Jeffery says it is the combination of southern Montgomery cty and Warren Cty that crush the dems vote in Dayton. In addition due to the right to life crowd some dems and many Republicans vote against their economic interests. With the Economic Storm Clouds on the Horizon this group may vote the other way quickly. The person gerrymandering this district also virtually ensured support from the Congressman on Austin Road due to the inclusion of Northern Warren County. Brilliant!