5 comments April 5th, 2007at 08:20pm Posted by Eli


This is already a record-breaking campaign for the sheer volume of money it is generating. It also is setting a new low with a ludicrously premature handicapping of the race based on the ability to raise cash. It is 19 months before the election, and the quarterly fund-raising data were treated this week like the dawning of poll results from Dixville Notch, N.H.

All this in a race that is supposed to be a different sort of competition — if not of ideas, then at least of personalities and positions.

This is not just another example of picking a winner before a vote is cast. This year, the political industry is spinning the money before it is spent, ordaining mega-fund-raising as the sine qua non of a credible candidacy. Dispatches heralded “the winners of the first presidential fund-raising race,” pronouncing one big $20 million raiser (Mitt Romney) as instantly “formidable” and a “rising force” in the campaign, while discounting a more familiar aspirant (Senator John McCain) as “lackluster” and “anemic” for showing at a mere $12.5 million.

If only voters’ optimism about the nation and the political system could rise in direct proportion to the money stacks.

The one thing established by the private fund-raising binge is that the nation needs the alternative of limited public financing as a rational option for seeking the presidency just as much as when it was enacted in response to the Watergate era of big-money corruption. Successive Congresses have failed to update the dollar limitations of the public financing law, inviting private donors to fully regain the upper hand in this presidential sweepstakes.

This is depressing, and it’s been like this at least since the 2000 election – and probably longer. Does anyone really believe that the ability to raise massive sums of money should be a prerequisite for the presidency? Does anyone really believe that ordinary citizens have a voice when elected officials are beholden to millionaires and corporations for their campaign funding? One-person-one-vote is the fundamental principle of democracy, and when money becomes a proxy for votes, that principle is perverted beyond recognition.

Elections are supposed to be about the ideas and positions of the candidates, and the votes of the citizenry, and that’s still true to some extent. But the primacy of money has made fundraising more important than ideas, and donors more important than voters. Yes, a truly compelling candidate can overcome a dollar disadvantage, but they still need to have enough money to get their message out.

So yes, we need public financing to restore balance and fairness to our democracy. We need to get politicians out of their donors’ pockets so that they can start working for all of us.

(Yes, I know this is all hopelessly naive, and the rich and corporate will always find ways to corrupt elected officials and game the system, but this would at least give the rest of us a fighting chance.)

Entry Filed under: Elections,Politics


  • 1. Ripley  |  April 5th, 2007 at 8:59 pm

    The announcements about fundraising are free advertising, in themselves. The public certainly doesn’t need to know how much candidates raise (as a news story, not from an FEC perspective), it’s just ‘10,000,000 Elvis fans can’t be wrong!’ marketing to make them look popular.

    If the Press were smart, they’d list the Top 10 Donors every time they bring these non-stories up. The From Whom is more important than the How Much. Are the candidates thinking about me or MegaCorp? How much are the Lobbyists providing? How much is Dobson providing? These things matter more than aggregate contributions, at least in my opinon.

  • 2. Eli  |  April 5th, 2007 at 11:54 pm

    I think you’re right on both counts. Plus reporting on fundraising is a variation on horse-race reporting, where you talk about everything except what the candidates actually stand for.

    The Top 10 Donors would be very instructive indeed. Or completely unsurprising. I *would* like to know who the candidates are sponsored by, though. Maybe they could wear logos all over like NASCAR drivers.

  • 3. Ripley  |  April 6th, 2007 at 9:11 am

    Maybe they could wear logos all over like NASCAR drivers.

    Or Capt. Amazing

  • 4. Eli  |  April 6th, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    That’s the idea – just a different uniform underneath.

  • 5. charley  |  April 6th, 2007 at 9:51 pm

    politics and the media, a self sustaining, off the shelf, circle jerk.

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