The Great 2016 Money Chase
Campaign spending is out of control, and it’s ruining our political system.
He needs this much more.
By Peter Fenn Feb. 12, 2015 | 11:55 a.m. EST + More
John F. Kennedy was known for a funny line he delivered at a Denver fundraiser in 1960. After a glowing introduction he remarked that he was “deeply touched, but not as deeply touched as you have been in coming to this luncheon.” This at a time when $100 was considered a major donation. And indeed, $100 was the highest price for a seat a few years later at a JFK birthday party fundraiser for the Democratic Party that featured Jack Benny, Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Fonda and Marilyn Monroe singing, “Happy Birthday, Mr. President.”
What a different world we inhabit today when it comes to political fundraising.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was scheduled to have an event last night at the Park Avenue home of Wall Street mogul Henry Kravis and his wife, where the entry fee would be $100,000. No, that is not a typo. Now, I admit I am not clear whether that is per person or per couple but … is that what fundraising has become after the recent Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court decision?
[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on the 2016 Presidential Elections]
Press reports indicate that a political action committee supporting Hillary Clinton, Priorities USA Action, is having trouble raising its goal of $500 million. Again, not a typo. Evidently, there is a major effort afoot to entice 30 individuals to give a million dollars each to the PAC. Thus far, the PAC has only 10 takers. Only ten? Gee, tough life.
We just spent nearly $4 billion – yes billion – for the 2014 elections and achieved the lowest voter turnout in a midterm since 1942.
Sadly, PACs and independent groups were estimated to have spent more than half a billion dollars on harsh, negative, attack advertising.
[SEE: Political Cartoons on the Economy]
This has become the equivalent of a money nuclear arms race. It resembles the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States, except it is about money not weapons. Each side is locked into a rapidly rising fundraising effort that has seen the costs of campaigns more than double from about $3 billion in 2000 to over $6 billion in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The question, of course, is what will it take to reverse this trend and to convince our legislators that the time they spend “dialing for dollars” and attending fundraisers truly takes away from the job they were elected to do.
[SEE: Editorial Cartoons on Hillary Clinton]
What is crystal clear right now is that anything goes in our current climate – any amount is fair game – and the likelihood is we will bust all records in 2016. How far we have come from JFK’s quaint comments comparing such small sums to being “deeply touched” to an admission fee of $100,000 to a swanky New York event for Bush or a million dollars for a super PAC backing Hillary.
The road we are headed down is transforming our political system – and not for the better.