Friday, September 17, 2010

Money Might Buy You Love But Not A Political Office

One of the most common complaints I hear about wealthy political candidates is that they are rich enough to buy their way into office. Some people will make this argument after they have heard that Meg Whitman has broken the record for spending money towards a political campaign:
"Former eBay boss Meg Whitman has shattered the record for the biggest spending candidate in any U.S. election in history
She has splashed out a staggering $119 million of her own money in her  bid to succeed Arnold Schwarzenegger as California’s next Republican governor. By shelling out another $15 million from her hi-tech fortune this week, she surpassed the $109 million spent by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg on his 2009 reelection campaign."
However, having a big fortune and spending that money on a political campaign doesn't mean a rich person can actually buy a political office. Sometimes people with lots of money will win elections and sometimes they will lose elections. However, spending that much money does have an impact on a wealthy political candidate's wallet. 
Republican Steve Poizner is perhaps the best example that money cannot buy you an office seat. It is reported that he is worth at least $1.2 Billion. He spent "$5.9 million himself to compile a $6.65 million campaign war chest, outspent his opponent more than 3-to-1 and still lost his 2004 race for an open seat in the California State Assembly." (Source.) In 2006, he ran for California Insurance Commissioner and won. by using approximately $17 million of his own personal funds. However, in 2010, he spent $25 million of his own money in a failed effort to win the California Republican Primary and the chance to compete against Jerry Brown to become the next governor of California. Losing two out of three political campaigns is pretty bad. It’s worse to lose and spend a fortune doing it...twice. 
In fact, California is the perfect state to blow the idea that wealth can  help  someone win a campaign and get a cushy political job. For example, from "the early 1960s, 18 wealthy Californians have spent lavishly from their personal fortunes on campaigns for governor or the U.S. Senate. Of those, 17 failed, many spectacularly so." (Source.) And it doesn't matter if it was a wealthy Democrat or Republican. They spent a lot of money to lose.
As if you didn't need any more examples to bust this argument, it is worth remembering that Ross Perot spent anywhere between $57 million to $65.4 million of his own money in the 1992 Presidential election and lost. Mitt Romney spent $45 million of his own money and ultimately suspended his 2008 Presidential campaign.
Money can buy you alot of things. Buying your way into a political office isn't one of them.  

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