We are in the midst of the most expensive presidential campaign in our nation’s history. (No, this race is not “the most important in our history etc.” Historically, it’s only sort of important.) Money records will be smashed as the candidates raise and spend millions – no, billions – of dollars seeking jobs that pay a fraction of that.
The question, as usual, is: what’s in it for us? If we don’t look out for Number One, who will? Certainly not those lying, cheating, hypocritical candidates who promise hot pie in the sky and deliver cold pizza in a box. Forget them, what about their money? Who receives all those campaign contributions? Why not us?
Let’s set the scene: In 2000, George W. Bush set the gold standard by raising and spending so much money all the other GOP candidates just melted away in surly silence. W. set a high bar, and Obama cleared it in 2008. This year, we don’t know yet how much money is involved because the bookkeeping is dreadfully behind the times. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is not only toothless but late. It’s still figuring if Truman really beat Dewey by over-spending.
And, of course, there is the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that said corporations are people and thus endowed with free speech rights – and the right to spend as much as they please. Bill Moyers observed, “I have a friend back in Texas that says he’ll believe corporations are people when Texas executes one.” If speech is free, it’s also terribly expensive. Because of the high court’s ruling, super PACs can raise and spend as much money as they want and (the best part) almost anonymously.
This is truly a redistribution of wealth, as the Koch Brothers spend millions on catering, valets, ad salesmen, the little people. Wrong! In presidential campaigns, about 80 percent of the money goes to TV ads. Unless you own a TV station, you might not get a dime. Some of the money will go to Viacom, which owns CBS and whose chairman, Philippe P. Dauman, received $84.5 million last year. Remember that factoid when you make your next campaign contribution.
But there are still some donations left to fight over. For inspiration we take Iowa, please. The GOP primary a few weeks ago chose 1 percent of the party’s national delegates. Should we really care about a minute sample of skewered demographics? We were told we should, as the candidates with their entourage, the press from all over the world, poured into the corn fields and poured cash into the farmer’s coffers. If Iowa can do it, Texas can do it better.
Two steps: First, we have to move up the Texas primary to, say, a week after the January inauguration. No more shall we be an afterthought. We need to be up for grabs and not just a cash cow for funds to buy TV time in South Carolina. We’ll know we are important when we start seeing TV ads for the candidates, sudden visits to our cities, and rallies on the Capitol steps. A political first: they will be spending Texans’ money in Texas.
On the other hand, neither party really wants to blow cash in Texas. We are expensive. Texas is separated into 20 media markets, the most of any state. Former Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro, who was state director for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008, told The New York Times, “It’s like running a national campaign. There are no similarities between Amarillo and Brownsville and Beaumont and Texarkana and El Paso and Austin and Houston and Dallas. These are very separate demographic groups with very diverse interests.”
That done, we take step Number Two: We need to be a consultant. It requires no training and obviously no talent. Look at Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential campaign staff: “There has never been a more ineptly orchestrated, just unbelievably subpar campaign for president of the United States than this one,” said an anonymous senior Perry adviser. There’s room for fresh blood.
Perry’s principal campaign committee, RickPerry.Org Inc., reported in October that it had raised $17.2 million in the third quarter of 2011, more than every other candidate in that filing period. Some say they spent most of it. Others think there’s still a bundle of Perry cash in an Austin bank. I believe it’s piled up alongside Mitt Romney’s fortune in the Cayman Islands.
We also have those aforementioned super PACs. Perry’s was Make Us Great Again. The organization had intended to spend as much as $55 million to secure the Republican nomination for Perry, but as of Jan. 13, the super PAC had spent just $3.9 million. Where’s the rest of it?
But our governor was a cheapskate compared to Mitt Romney, the richest person ever to run for president. His worth is said to be near $250 million. Hey, when someone refers to his $374,000 income in just speaking fees for one year (seven times the median family income of $49,445) as “not very much,” he’s rich big time. Now Romney is spending millions and millions of his own money. Did you get your share?
Then there’s Newt Gingrich, who paid his daughter, Jackie Gingrich Cushman, more than $56,000 working for her father’s campaign the past two years. Ron Paul’s support comes in many different forms. In Nevada, the Moonlite Bunny Ranch is offering a special: two bunnies for the price of one if you support Paul. The Bunny Ranch, as you might suppose, is a brothel (prostitution is legal in Nevada). Dennis Hof, owner, said, “We thought real closely about supporting Gingrich, because he’s a cheater – and we love cheaters.”
All this time Obama is just raking it in, ready to out-spend the GOP nominee. Between now and November a few billion will be blown, and that’s where we come in, on either side. We can consult, hang chads and deliver cold pizza in a box.
Ashby consults at firstname.lastname@example.org