The Best Money Can Buy
By Ross Becker
It is stunning, these days, how much it costs to run for public office. I scoured the Internet looking for references to the numbers and found some examples. Some candidates brag they spent less than $100 to win a local office. Meg Whitman has spent nearly $120 million of her own money to become California governor. The analysts say sometimes money can make a difference and turn an unknown into a winner, but most of the time money will not make the difference. In fact, some say the weather on Election Day may be a more significant factor. Yet, spending keeps going up.
When it comes to buying influence in an election, George Soros is Superman. He's a billionaire who in the last several big elections spent millions of his own to support the Democrats. There are some who think that Barack Obama would not be in the White House today if not for Soros and his money. Well, George Soros has had enough. He told the New York Times that he isn't spending a cent in the upcoming midterm elections. He is quoted as saying he believes the Republicans are heading toward victory in controlling the House of Representatives and that concerns him, but “I am not in a position to stop it. I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche.” Even the man with the money says money won't cure his problem this time. Republicans have their deep pockets, too. GOP Industrialist Norton Simon tried to buy a seat in the senate in the 1970's. He failed.
The latest campaign financing story today is from the White House itself. President Obama is accusing the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of using foreign money to help fund Republican candidates nationwide. The phrase “foreign money” is like anthrax in a political campaign. No one wants to be accused of taking money from foreign governments or companies and “co-mingling” it with the dollar to win influence. The Supreme Court recently handed down a ruling to amend the Corrupt Practices Act of 1925. It now allows corporations to spend unlimited money on political campaigns and some of these companies do business around the world. Is that foreign money? The key is it allows companies to donate anonymously. The new ruling, basically, puts corporations on even footing with labor unions who for years have contributed mostly to the Democrats. By the way, the Chamber denies it takes foreign contributions and the Democrats admit they have no proof.
We have gotten used to getting “the best candidate money can buy” here in the United States. A campaign is marketing a message, an idea, a spirit, a face and a promise and that takes money.
Remember, the money spent on political campaigns feeds a huge media industry. That cash buys TV commercials, billboards, and radio and newspaper ads. That creates jobs. That campaign money also pays for limo drivers, private pilots and security guards. It buys catered lunches and even late night cocktails with lobbyists.
There are many reasons people vote for the people they vote for. Money can make them look good or bad; it can make them visible when they are invisible. But, in the end, we hope choices in the voting booth are made on conviction and belief that the person who gets the checkmark can actually do the best job.