You can create your own Ameritrade account today and begin buying politicians, just as Joe Ricketts did, but remember that the STARTING bid appears to be around $250,000.00.

At least, that’s the Ameritrade price of a US Senate candidate in Nebraska. Your politician may cost you more, or less, depending on who you want to buy and where he or she is located.

 

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s Republican U.S. Senate primary in Nebraska, campaign finance watchdogs are concerned about the role businessman Joe Ricketts played in helping underdog state Sen. Deb Fischer secure the GOP nomination.

Ricketts, the founder of the Omaha-based online brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, was behind a $250,000 last-minute super PAC ad buy designed to boost Fischer’s prospects in a three-way race that also featured frontrunner Jon Bruning, the state’s attorney general, and state Treasurer Don Stenberg, the favored candidate of the conservative Club for Growth and tea party-aligned Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Thanks to this spending surge and an eleventh-hour endorsement from former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, Fischer garnered more than twice as many votes as Stenberg — and beat Bruning by 5 percentage points. Her upset came after she raised only about one-eighth of Bruning’s $3.6 million haul.

If she prevails in November against Democrat Bob Kerrey, a former Nebraska governor and U.S. senator, watchdogs worry Ricketts’ influence would be considerable. 

“I don’t think there is any doubt Ricketts will get more access to Fischer than regular Nebraskans,” said Adam Smith, communications director at Public Campaign. “This is about electing politicians that will benefit his bottom line and the TD Ameritrade lobbyists will know they have a likely champion if she’s elected in November.”

This concern is echoed by Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, which, like Public Campaign, favors campaign finance regulations.

“Washington is responsive to the people who got them in power,” said McGehee. “You know the old saying, ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’? That’s the system we have.”

Ricketts’ super-sized contributions to a political group that ran ads advocating against Bruning and for Fischer are legally allowed in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling. Previously, individuals were limited to giving just $5,000 per year to groups that made “independent expenditures,” the Federal Election Commission’s term for messages that explicitly tell people to vote for or against a candidate.

In addition to being the long-time chairman and CEO of Ameritrade, Ricketts is the patriarch of the family that owns the Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team, which is currently seeking government assistance to renovate its Wrigley Park stadium. (The team also recently benefited from $99 million from taxpayers in Mesa, Ariz., for a new spring training facility and 15,000-person stadium that will be “the western headquarters for the Chicago Cubs.”)

Nebraska’s primary marked the reemergence of the Ending Spending Action Fund, which had been dormant since the 2010 midterm elections. Ricketts is the sole individual donor to the group, having given more than $1.4 million. The conservative super PAC seeks to eliminate government spending that it deems wasteful and reduce the national debt.

As you can see, Ricketts doesn’t want to end ALL spending. Just that spending that doesn’t benefit HIM. As to most of his Rushpubliscum pals.

The more of this I see, the more I wonder how long we have left. Citizens United may well be the wedge that finally divides us, geographically as well as ideologically.

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