Since the landmark Citizens United court case America has seen a flurry of interest around the role that money plays in politics. News organizations like ProPublica, Salon, The New York Times, and Mother Jones have devoted bountiful resources to tracking and highlighting it. Activist organizations have been set up with the explicit purpose of removing it. And Stephen Colbert has received a Pulitzer Prize for his efforts in making fun of it. However, considering how dismally moneyed interests fared in the 2012 election, is there much point in focusing on removing money from politics? Why not leave it alone?
Sheldon Adelson famously pledged to spend up to a $100 million of his own money on getting Mitt Romney elected. The Koch brothers also pledged to spend tens of millions of dollars, and Karl Rove raised hundreds of millions more through his two organizations. The US Chamber of Commerce raised and spent a ton of money, as did the myriad of “super pacs” that supported the two Presidential candidates, the other Republican Presidential Candidates, dozens of Congressional Candidates, and countless singular causes. But it does not seem like many got their moneys worth.
All in all this Presidential campaign is estimated to have cost more than 6 billion dollars, with more than $500 million of that coming from “independent groups”. But an even more important number comes from ProPublica. ProPublica claims that outside groups supporting Mitt Romney spent $6.23 per vote, whereas outside groups supporting Obama spent $1.78 per vote. That means groups supporting Romney far outspent groups supporting Obama, and yet Romney still lost dismally. The same goes for the congressional districts, where groups supporting Republican Connie Mack outspent groups supporting Democrat Bill nelson $3.92 to $1.07 per vote (Nelson won), and groups supporting Republican Josh Mandel outspent groups supporting Democrat Sherrod Brown $8.31 to $5.30 per vote (Brown won). A cursory glance of the list compiled by ProPublica does show a few instances of spending by outside groups favoring the winning candidate, but no one looking at the list can plausibly claim that money was a deciding factor in who won this year’s elections. It may have had a role, but there are obviously other factors at play. It suggests things like policy stances, flip flopping, and secretly taped videos of candidates dismissing 47% of the country may have had as an impact on the election than billionaires writing big cheques.
So what to do? Well, it is sometimes said that a fool and his money will soon be parted. If the Sheldon Adelson’s and Koch Brothers of this world look at the outcome of this election and still believe that political donations are a good investment, I say we invite them to go right ahead and be parted from their money. If Karl Rove can raise hundreds of millions of dollars and spend only 1% of it on winning campaigns, then maybe there is no need to bother getting money out of politics.
Originally posted @ Sakalabujan.com