Obama, Romney, Bachmann: Money, not the best person, wins Presidency

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RANCHO SANTA FE, CA., June 22, 2011 –  The cornucopia of Republican candidates has something in common with its most ardent opponent, President Obama: an insatiable appetite for campaign money. The question is, should the Office of President of the United States go to the highest bidder?

It shouldn’t, but it certainly is trending that way.

As I mention in my book, The National Platform of Common Sense, 2008 Republican Presidential candidate John McCain raised approximately $368 million during his campaign.  In his failed attempt to “win” the Presidency, he spent approximately $333 million of that sum.

Did John McCain's adoption of campaign finance reform aid in his loss of  the presidency to Barack Obama?

Did John McCain’s adoption of campaign finance reform aid in his loss of the presidency to Barack Obama?


 

Senator McCain was somewhat constrained by having signed a pledge that restricted his ability to raise additional campaign funds. Then-Senator Obama verbally agreed to honor the same pledge but never bothered to sign it. Since in today’s world a man’s word apparently isn’t his bond, Senator Obama was able to ignore the pledge and raise what was considered to be an astonishing $745 million.

Now, Senator Obama could have restricted his spending to something in the neighborhood of the ridiculous $333 million that Senator McCain spent, but he had more than twice that amount in his campaign coffers.

So, there was only one reasonable thing to do: spend about $730 million of it, because he could.

Lesson learned: You can buy a lot of attack ads if you have $400 million more to spend than your opponent. Welcome to American politics at its finest!

Of course, it wouldn’t be hard to come up with 100 other legitimate reasons why President Obama won the election, but no one can reasonably deny that money at least played a role. The issue is whether that should be the case.

If Romney raises the funds, will other candidates drop out, even if more qualified?

If Romney raises the funds, will other candidates drop out, even if more qualified?

Should the person with the most chips at the table have such a decided advantage?

Imagine a poker tournament where everyone started the game with the same number of chips, except for one individual who was given more than twice as many as the other players. Could the lucky individual still lose?  Certainly!

All other things being equal, is it likely to happen? No!

That’s why we are likely to see a drop-off of Republican candidates after the first campaign financing reports are filed with the Federal Election Committee (FEC) on July 15th. If Governor Romney has a dramatic monetary advantage, several candidates are likely to “fold.”

It won’t be because they don’t still believe that their solutions are superior. It will be because the odds against them are just too high.

The odds are even higher for the 2012 election because the incumbent’s campaign committee has established a goal of raising $1 billion to re-elect the President, a goal they are expected to achieve. Never mind that the job only pays $400 thousand a year. It’s all about “winning,” as Charlie Sheen might say. Besides, what else would you do with $1 billion? Feed the homeless? Educate a few hundred thousand children? Where are your political priorities?

What is a candidate like Michele Bachmann to do? Can you be the first female president if the financial playing field is not equal?

What is a candidate like Michele Bachmann to do? Can you be the first female president if the financial playing field is not equal?

 

Most people aren’t aware of how stacked the deck is against those who would otherwise be legitimate candidates in today’s political environment. In that regard, let’s take a look at a few salient elements of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). But first, you’ll need a scorecard to identify who is playing.

Candidates may be funded by individual contributions, candidate committees, party committees and Political Action Committees (PACs). The FECA requires candidate committees, party committees and PACs to file periodic reports that disclose how much money they raise and spend.

It also requires candidates to identify individuals who give them more than $200 in an election cycle. So far, so good!

Individuals can give:

  • $2,500 to each candidate per election
  • $30,800 to each national party committee per calendar year
  • $10,000 (combined) to state, district and local party committees per calendar year
  • $5,000 to any other political committee per calendar year
  • With a combined biennial limit of $117,000 ($46,200 to all candidates and $70,800 to all PACS and parties)

Of course, money can also filter back to the candidates through the party committees and PACs. For example:

National party committees can give:

  • $5,000 to each candidate per election
  • Unlimited funds to a national party committee per calendar year
  • Unlimited funds to state, district and local party committees per calendar year
  • $5,000 to any other political committee per calendar year
  • $41,300 per Senate candidate per campaign

District, state and local party committees can give:

  • $5,000 (combined) to each candidate per election
  • Unlimited funds to a national party committee per calendar year
  • Unlimited funds to state, district and local party committees per calendar year
  • $5,000 to any other political committee per calendar year
  • No other special limits

Multi-candidate PACs can give:

  • $5,000 to each candidate per election
  • $15,000 to a national party committee per calendar year
  • $5,000 (combined) to state, district and local party committees per calendar year
  • $5,000 to any other political committee per calendar year
  • No other special limits

Non-multi-candidate PACs can give:

  • $2,500 to each candidate per election
  • $30,800 to a national party committee per calendar year
  • $10,000 (combined) to state, district and local party committees per calendar year
  • $5,000 to any other political committee per calendar year
  • No other special limits

And authorized campaign committees can give:

  • $2,000 (combined) to each candidate per election
  • Unlimited funds to a national party committee per calendar year
  • Unlimited funds to state, district and local party committees per calendar year
  • $5,000 to any other political committee per calendar year
  • No other special limits

Add it all together and “let the good times roll!”

Luckily, “big money” resources are precluded from having undue economic influence in a federal election. The FECA states that no one may make a contribution in cash of more than $100, and no one may make a contribution in another person’s name (even though, in some jurisdictions, they apparently can still vote).

In addition, the FECA precludes corporations and unions from contributing to federal election campaigns as well as federal government contractors and foreign nationals.  That sounds reasonable and reassuring. So, why do we hear so much about corporations and unions buying political influence?

Well, it appears that corporations and unions can establish PACs. Corporate and labor PACs are allowed to raise “voluntary” contributions from a restricted class of individuals and use those funds to support federal candidates and political committees, and, of course, PACs can give money to candidates and disclose the sources of their funding. What could possibly go wrong with that scenario?

Corporate and labor PACs may also conduct “other activities” related to federal elections, within certain guidelines (11 CFR 114). There goes the illusion that “big money” isn’t filtering to the candidates through “big business” and “big unions.” Then again, it’s only money.

Money apparently can’t buy influence. No less of an authority than Press Secretary Carney says so. When questioned about the current Administration’s appointments, the Press Secretary said, “We stand by all of our appointments … it is important to note that being a supporter does not qualify you for a job or guarantee to you a job, but it does not disqualify you obviously.”

Does it make it easier to get the big donors when you can dangle key cabinet positions before them?

Does it make it easier to get the big donors when you can dangle key cabinet positions before them?

 

Evidently, it’s just random chance that nearly 80 percent of those who raised more than $500,000 for the President’s last campaign were chosen to fill “key administration posts.”  The same is true with respect to the more than half of the 24 nominees for ambassadorial posts who fell into that same fund-raising class.

Press Secretary Carney pointed to himself as an example of someone who has risen through the ranks on merit. “I didn’t raise a half million dollars, I didn’t raise any money and I’m standing here.” Please don’t tell him that “Press Secretary” isn’t one of those positions with which a President would reward a major donor. It’s more akin to getting to be the point man in an assignment to sweep a minefield.

Heather Higginbottom is another example. She is not a “big donor.” Since graduating from college, Ms. Higginbottom has worked non-stop in the political arena. She served John Kerry during his presidential and senatorial bids before becoming a valued member of President Obama’s campaign team. Most recently, she was nominated by the President for the position of Deputy Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Deputy Director is the number two position within the OMB. The OMB is the largest Cabinet-level office within the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It is intimately involved in resolving our Nation’s budget crisis. Did I mention that Ms. Higginbottom doesn’t have a background in finance or accounting? We must not have been able to find a “big donor”with appropriate qualifications.

Sometimes money isn’t the key. Sometimes it’s just who you know. But most of the time, it’s money.

It’s sad to think that our best candidates may never enter the race because the ante is too steep. It would take a special kind of courage to stand up to “big politics,” the kind of courage lacking among our current band of politicians.

Apparently money talks, and you don’t have to get particularly close to hear it.

*****

T.J. O’Hara is a political satirist, media personality and author of three best selling books:  The Left isn’t Right, The Right is Wrong, and The National Platform of Common Sense.  To Order Books, go to: http://tinyurl.com/2a9rztg

T.J. will be the Guest Host of The Rick Amato Show on Wednesday, June 22nd on KCBQ 1170 AM, , San Diego, from 7:00-8:00 PM (PDT).  Listen at www.KCBQ.com or watch live via the Internet at http://AmatoTalk.com.

The Czar will also be doing a book signing at Troopathon at the Nixon Library on June 23rd (1:00-9:00 PM PDT) to raise money to send care packages to our troops abroad.  Go to www.troopathon.org to contribute to the cause.

Website:                   www.TheCommonSenseCzar.net

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