« Rahm Emanuel is a Great Member of Congress | Main | Getting noticed »

I wonder if money in politics doesn't matter as much as it did...

One of the few issues on which I have some real expertise is campaign finance reform and the role of money in politics. (Although I'm also sick and tired of the issue.) I have to finish a book chapter about the topic in the next week or two, and so I wanted to update a statistic that I had calculated a year or two ago: In 2000, every newly elected member of Congress, with one exception, from a competitive district spent more than one million dollars to get elected. And the exception spent $980,000. So the barrier to entry for a competitive congressional race would seem to be $1 million. That applies not just to challengers facing incumbents, but to elections for open seats.
The other day I set out to update that statistic. I assumed the price of entry would be higher -- perhaps as much as $1.5 million. And there were some incredibly expensive races last year -- the top 25 spenders range from $8 million down to $2.3 million. But I noticed two interesting things: First, all five of the top spenders, and seven of the top ten, lost. (That's not entirely surprising, because with a few exceptions, these are self-financed candidates, who sometimes lack other political skills.) Second, as I started looking at the freshmen, unlike 2000, there were a few who not only didn't spend a million, they were actually outspent. On Long Island, for example, Rep. Tim Bishop beat an incumbent with only $800,000 to the incumbent's $1.3 million. In a Republican-leaning district in Louisiana, a guy named Rodney Alexander won a hair's-breadth victory, also spending only $800,000. And there are several other examples as well.
Not that $800,000 isn't a lot of money. It's more than most people can raise in small contributions. And I don't mean to minimize the role of money in politics. Incumbents still raise enough to scare off all but the bravest, richest, or most well-connected challengers. Maybe all these are anomalies. But it's also possible that as politics becomes a little more ideologically polarized, money might matter a little less. Perhaps money has more influence in an environment of ideological and party ambiguity, when a candidate can get away with running thousands of ads that either tear down his opponent or fudge his own positions.
Another example: Presidential fundraising. Coverage of Governor Dean's fundraising success has noted that he broke Clinton's 1992 single-quarter fundraising record, but more interesting to me, all of the Democrats are exceeding what Democrats have been able to do in the past, by a lot. Here's a link I found to an FEC chart comparing fundraising through January of the election year from the 1998 election through the 1996 election:
In 1992, all of the Democrats put together, including the nutcases, had raised less than $18 million at that point, of which Clinton had $5.5 million. Today, at the end of just the third quarter of the year before the election, all the Democrats together have raised about $84 million. These are not directly comparable numbers, of course: the campaign started earlier; these numbers aren't adjusted either for standard inflation or actual inflation in campaign expenditures such as television time. But the bottom line is that it has proven easier for these Democrats, particularly Dean, Clark and, to some extent Edwards and Kerry, to raise money than they probably imagined. The Internet is part of the story. Bush is the other part of the story -- all of a sudden, there is motivation for small donors. Powerlessness, combined with the particular qualities of these candidates, are actually helping the Democrats get out of the trap that Tony Coelho built for them in the late 80s, of dependence on big corporate donors, many of whom give to Democrats solely on the gamble that they would continue to control at least one house of Congress.
The third example is the possibility that Haley Barbour (who is, basically, what George W. Bush would be if he hadn't stopped drinking) might, just might, get his ass kicked in his attempt to become the lobbyist/governor of Mississippi.
None of this is a huge change in the culture of politics. But one of my deep convictions is that we often miss these big shifts, and that by the time we pass legislation or other policy changes to respond to problems, the problems have either evaporated or shifted form. I'm not sure this is the case with money in politics, but I'm surprised to find that it's not as easy to make the case about the problem.

Posted by Mark Schmitt on October 21, 2003 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference I wonder if money in politics doesn't matter as much as it did...:

» Bmw. Bmw part bmw motorcycle bmw usa bmw m3 bmw car from Godzik Blog
2005 BMW 5-Series. Competition from Acura, Audi and Mercedes-Benz Make AWD 5-Series Reality... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 24, 2005 7:17:23 AM

» No Worms in this Apple from The Other Corner
Couldn't have said this (or this) better myself. Nowhere in the first amendment does it give someone the right to traffic stolen property... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 25, 2005 1:31:26 PM

» Email, RSS un Wikis from HIRSCgarden
Reiner Langenhan schreibt auf Handakte Von E-Mails zu RSS, in Reaktion auf meinen Beitrag im KMU-Blog: das kann ich nur best䴩gen! Ross Mayfield hat einen recht 䨮lichen Artikel in seinem Blog zu... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2005 12:00:06 PM

» Duke President Faces Alumni Questioning (AP) from party, with one
questioned the schools president Saturday about suspending two lacrosse players charged with raping a stripper at a team [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 25, 2006 3:20:14 PM

» Finding Information on the Internet from Net Search
The University of California Berkeley recommends search strategies, explains search tools, and gives guidance on evaluating and citing web pages... [Read More]

Tracked on May 3, 2006 12:16:49 PM

» Bolivia Military Told to Occupy Gas Fields (AP) from natural gas fields
soldiers to occupy Bolivias natural gas fields Monday and threatened to evict foreign companies [Read More]

Tracked on May 3, 2006 5:25:38 PM

» A Smart Trick for Attracting Higher Paying AdSense Ads from However, I do
bring you more money every time. However, I do guarantee that they will greatly increase [Read More]

Tracked on May 20, 2006 1:16:28 PM

» Dictionary Search Page from Dictionary Search
An unabridged dictionary from aalii to zymurgy, including a pronunciation guide... [Read More]

Tracked on May 27, 2006 12:20:07 AM

» In Darfur, Teens With Machine Guns See No End to Violence from n Rare Meeting,
n Rare Meeting, Young Darfur Rebels Reject Peace Plan [Read More]

Tracked on May 30, 2006 7:47:27 PM

» Helping Katrina Refugees in Houston from We will give
9595 Six Pines Drive Mason H-E-B, 1621 Mason Road Louetta-Stuebner H-E-B, 7310 Louetta [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 7, 2006 9:26:37 PM

» IBM eases billing for virtualized environments from across the enterprise,
says it will focus on expanding the software's support for more hardware, middleware, and virtualized environments. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 8, 2006 2:43:39 PM

» Lawsuits Filed Over Lipitor Side Effects from filed over Lipitor
filed over Lipitor side effects, Pfizer says will fight them in court [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 9, 2006 7:31:08 PM

» Lose the Weight, or Wear the Bikini on TV from Threat of Public
the Threat of Public Humiliation Motivate Volunteers to Lose 15 Pounds in Two Months? [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 11, 2006 7:43:00 AM

» Indian Muslims on Unilateral Demarcation of Israel-Palestine Border from Plan Publicly
Publicly and Mobilize NAM for Protecting Legitimate Rights of Palestinian People.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 11, 2006 3:33:58 PM

» Terror Suspects Plotted Truck Bombs from to a news report.
suspects had considered exploding truck bombs in Toronto's financial district, according to [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 15, 2006 4:30:25 PM

» Use of Antipsychotics by the Young Rose Fivefold from is likely to
a continuing debate about the risks of using psychiatric medication in children. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 18, 2006 12:16:16 PM

» Consumer spending up 0.2 percent in June (AP) from spending was
up their gas tanks and a key inflation gauge rose at the fastest clip in more than a decade. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 8, 2006 8:45:59 PM



los foros
anunciate ya anuncios gratis
ven a chatear gratis

liens gratuits en dur

web directory



portal web de motril



Posted by: portal web | Sep 8, 2007 11:49:09 AM