Newmann: Show me the money
As the Big Day approaches, the two main actors are making their various pitches throughout the “battleground states” (a rather bellicose reference for what used to be the “swing states”) to try to swing enough electoral votes to get the lead role.
And the vast cast of supporting actors are working the critical areas in their own states and districts to either retain or receive a role on the national stage.
The messages are similar on each level of the campaign trail:
A. “I’m your best choice based on my merit, charm and good looks.”
B. “My opponent has a direct link to Satan.”
C. Both A and B.
Throw in a few promises and the obligatory “I’ll work hard for you” and there you have it.
There are other messages, seemingly personal in tone, that flood one’s inbox. “We’re this close,” they say. “If you give us $4.78 more it will push us over the top — and we’ll win. You can afford this pittance. Don’t let us down.” These messages show up in the inbox with such frequency that it seems to take days to finally delete them all.
The amounts of money raised for the candidates and their campaigns are staggering; all those $4.78 “donations” add up. So do the other contributions to the PACs (political action committees), up to the maximum limit, from other backers.
And don’t forget to factor in the money brought in by super PACs, which receive funding from, among other sources, corporations, unions and special interest groups. Super PACs are not subject to donation constraints. The sky is the limit for the amounts the super PACs can receive. The cash they raise, which is considered a non-contribution and cannot go directly to the preferred candidate, can be (and generally is) spent on advertising for that candidate — or against the opponent.
The expected total spending for the combined presidential and congressional campaigns is estimated by The New York Times to be close to $14 billion. Try to work your head around that figure; the number has nine zeros at the end of it. To further put that number in perspective, the 2016 figure was a measly $7 billion.
The campaign push usually starts to ramp up a couple of years prior to the actual election. Seems like once candidates are actually elected, they’re already looking toward the next election — and for the requisite cash to finance their future campaign. Leaves one wondering how much time they spend looking after their own loyal constituents, the folks whose inboxes they flood in search of donations.
Who benefits most from the dispersal of the massive campaign funds and where all the money ultimately ends up is also a question worth asking. Has it in any way helped you? Or anyone you know? If it has, terrific. But bet you’d be hard-pressed to say that you or anyone you know has been a real beneficiary. If all those ads and slogans alone are going to influence folks’ decisions, we’re in a bit of trouble. The advertisements are pretty poor substitutes for just taking a little bit of time to actually research the candidates and the issues.
As far as those billions of dollars that have been put into play for the current campaigns … seems like there could be better uses for all that cash. Health care, education, infrastructure … these are a few that spring to mind.
And then there’s the stimulus package that’s being stalled by some of the same folks who have been begging for our campaign contributions. Maybe these same erstwhile politicians could actually help their constituents — those who are in dire need of help — by agreeing to a deal.
But then, again, that would cost money.
Tom Newmann splits his time between Beaver Creek and Queenstown, New Zealand. He has been going winter-to-winter since 1986. He was also a journalist in Missoula, Montana, at the Missoulian for quite a few years. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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