We have spent a lot of time recently discussing, reading and talking about all the money being raised for the upcoming Texas elections for governor, lite gov, etc. These millions are (pardon the cliche) chump change compared to what will be raised for the 2016 presidential primaries and campaigns, and the rush has already started. It’s all low-keyed right now, of course, but we’d better believe it is happening. This concerns us, and in a moment I shall explain why
First, some necessary background. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United a few years ago opened the door further for campaign financing, ruling that corporations are people. (Where did we hear that?) Now the Supremes have ordained that we can give as much as we want to any candidate and, if you work it right, nobody has to know. You can now pile stacks of $100 bills on the candidates’ desk with the ink still wet. We also have PACs and something called Super PACs which means you can’t directly back a candidate but can sort of hint: The Committee to Support a Former Florida Governor. Or maybe: Texans For a Woman President. Other groups just go with the generic: Americans for a Better America or Citizens Supporting Somebody. As of April 18 of this year,1,001 Super PACs reported total receipts of $157,839,777. Today, when it comes to campaign funding, everything is legal, as I was telling Tom DeLay.
That Citizens United ruling made the 2012 election season the most expensive in American history. The Center for Responsive Politics estimated spending totaled about $6 billion, topping the next most expensive election by $700 million. But the Federal Election Commission calculated dollars spent exceeded the number of people on this planet — about $7 billion by the candidates, their party and deep pockets. Remember the FEC is a toothless campaign watchdog slow to respond to violations. I hear Warren Harding is in hot water.
In that last presidential election, billionaire Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave millions to Newt Gingrich’s GOP primary campaign. When that didn’t pan out, their money went to Mitt Romney. Between Newt and Mitt — now there’s a catchy ticket — the Adelsons gave $90 million (some say it was closer to $100 million) and didn’t have squat to show for it. Maybe owning a string of gambling casinos makes you think your luck will change, because recently a bunch of GOP potential presidential candidates went to Las Vegas to, in effect, be interviewed by the Adelsons, and kiss their rings. There are other big donors in the Republican donation ranks, like the Koch brothers, and many Texans. The Democrats have their own piggy banks — George Soros has given millions. It is impossible today to track who gave how much to whom, but every expert says this next presidential race will be mind-boggling expensive.
Hehehe. This is where you and I come in. We are concentrating our attention on all the money to be raised, but how about how much will be spent? All of it. When Hillary Clinton’s Dem nomination was “inevitable,” her staff reportedly ran up a $25,000 bill in Iowa for one breakfast. Can you flip pancakes? OK, a funny thing happened to Hillary on her way to the Oval Office, but she is back in the race, and well knows how to squeeze funds from Dem heavyweights who yearn for an ambassadorship to Monaco. Meanwhile, if the GOP candidates don’t form a circular firing squad again, their primaries may be less expensive, but still costly. Then comes the big show: the general election. The two candidates will need a leased airplane, tour bus, platforms (the wooden kind), well-stocked bar for the press, car caravans in every city, catering and bodyguards.
Start cozying up to the staffs of Rand Paul and Paul Ryan, or is it Paul Paul and Rand Ryan? Call the offices of other potential candidates like Chris Christie, Mario Rubio, Jeb Bush, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Warren Harding. That phone call might come in handy later. “We’re gonna stop at East Tumbleweed, Texas. Who was that guy who could get us overalls for Hillary?”
True, none of the candidates will campaign much in Texas because our Electoral College votes are already pledged to the Republican nominee, and everyone in national politics knows Texas is only their campaign’s ATM. They come here for funds, not votes. But why should some faceless Mad Men in Manhattan get all that money to formulate ads, bumper stickers and billboards? Cut in line. Just brainstorming here, but think catchy slogans. Let’s Go Cruz-ing, Eye of Newt, Jeb –The Smart Son, Super Marco, The Donald Can’t Be Trumped, Hillary — the Desperate Housewife. Chris Christie: The Fat Chance.
They call it “oppositional research.” We call a “slime hunt.” Hire on to dig up dirt on the opponents. Go back to their kindergartens, high school proms and genes. If you can’t find anything sleazy, make it up. “My opponent likes to strangle kittens.” Or: “Ask her about her five ex-husbands.” Once the seed is planted, it’s hard to kill, because some people will believe anything. Can you spell WMD?
The best gig of all is the consultant — someone who borrows your watch, tells you the time and then charges you for the privilege. Since the Romney camp paid millions for advisers and strategists, and Mitt still got beaten by almost 5-million votes, their image is tarnished, and President Hillary’s wise advisers bombed; it’s time for new blood. Consultants can live anywhere, have any job. But when the campaign bell rings, here they come. Get your share. Your business card reads; “I’ve never lost a race.” Don’t mention that you never won one, either. OK, start lining up to line your pockets. Old buddy, there are billions of dollars to be spent starting in just a few months. Learn to flip pancakes.
Ashby campaigns for cash at email@example.com
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