In February 2004, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom began officiating same-sex weddings on the steps of City Hall. Over the next month, more than 4,000 couples tied the knot in defiance of a state referendum that had banned gay marriage in California in 2000. Newsom says he challenged the law out of a sense of "moral obligation." But his move awakened a sense of moral outrage among Republicans, who raced to put anti-gay-marriage initiatives on the ballot in 11 states. After John Kerry lost in November, some Democrats suggested that the specter of gay marriage had thrown the contest to George W. Bush. "I believe it did energize a very conservative vote," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said immediately after the election. "It gave them a position to rally around. The whole issue has just been too much, too fast, too soon."
New polls show Proposition 8, the California ballot measure banning gay marriage, winning in November by a margin of four to five points. This is a dramatic shift from what they'd indicated in recent months and up to as late as a week ago, when one of the same polls showed Prop 8 losing by the same margin. Since then, Prop 8 backers have blanketed the state's airwaves with an ad featuring San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaiming in a speech that gay marriage will happen "whether you like it or not"--a comment that may play on unfounded fears of government intervention. Inexplicably, one poll attributed much of the recent shift to young voters, who have typically been the most stalwart supporters of gay rights. In what's shaping up to be one of the costliest ballot measures on a cultural issue in state history, Prop 8 backers complain that they're being outspent, with a significant amount of Prop 8 funding coming from the Mormon Church. As I've written in the past, the gay marriage issue poses little if any threat to Barack Obama this year. Even so, the recent movement in the polls indicates that support for gay rights remains disturbingly malleable.
According to Maplight.org, House members who voted for the bailout received 54 percent more money from banks and securities firms than members who voted against it. The nonpartisan campaign finance watchdog group has also broken down the average donation from those sectors, based on lawmakers' bailout stances and party affiliations:
All House Members//// Average Amount Received
Voting No..................................$150,982 Democrats
Voting No..................................$107,993 Republicans
Republicans who opposed the bill are thought to have done so because they're rabid free market ideologues. So why hasn't the Street showered these guys with money in the past? Were they actually pro-regulation? (I doubt it). Are they simply marginal members of their party? Or is pure free market evangelism scary even to Wall Street? My bet's on the last one, but I'd be happy to be proven wrong. (Also, money might not explain everything)
The other interesting detail in these numbers is the small difference in donations to anti-bailout Republicans compared to pro-bailout Democrats (only about $30,000). It's not that Wall Street doesn't like free marketers; it's just a bit wary of anything in the extreme. Or to put it another way, it practices risk aversion at the ballot box. Just not enough of it; obviously, that GOP stock ain't so hot now.
The GAO is soon to publish a report faulting the credibility of the carbon offset market. It suggests that Congress think carefully before letting companies use offsets to comply with climate change legislation. Everyone has known that offsets can be sketchy for a long time, but my article in the July/August issue of Mother Jones was the first to explore how leading offset companies have partnered with oil companies and anti-regulatory lobbying firms in an effort to carve out a huge new market for themselves through climate legislation. These are the same guys to whom well-intentioned enviros have paid millions to offset car trips and airline flights. The financial meltdown has been bad enough. Let's hope it won't take a polar meltdown for Congress to realize that a laissez-faire carbon market won't save us.