Posted by: Randy Allgaier | November 6, 2006

The Price of Politics- $2.6 Billion spent in 2006- “That’s Obscene!


If I see one more political commercial I think I will vomit.  Now mind you- I don’t even live in an area where there are many contested races other than ballot initiatives so I really cannot imagine what it must be like in areas where there are hotly contested races for Congress or the Senate.

 

According to the Center for Responsive Politics this year’s intensely competitive election for control of the House of Representatives and Senate will be the most expensive midterm election ever. Candidates, national political parties and outside issue advocacy groups will spend roughly $2.6 billion by the end of 2006 to influence the 472 federal contests around the United States and pad the war chests of incumbents not running this year.

 

The non-partisan Center, which has been tracking the money in federal politics since the 1980s, based its 2006 prediction on spending to date and the final tally for the 2002 midterm election. In 2004, which included a presidential contest, the election cost $4.2 billion. About $2.2 billion was spent in 2002, which preceded campaign finance reforms that limited the influence of large corporate and union donors. The estimate for 2006 would represent an 18% increase over ’02.  

 

It truly amazes me that we do not have any real revolt from the public about true campaign finance reform.  We know darn well that neither party will aggressively pursue campaign finance reform because they are quite satisfied with the status quo. The Center predicts that PAC receipts and spending will exceed $1 billion for the first election ever, reflecting the ever-growing influence of business, labor and ideological interests in federal politics and despite the apparent competitiveness of this election, the percentage of PAC money going to incumbents is 87%. 

Then there are the “independent expenditures” The issue-advocacy groups known as 527 committees appear to be playing a much smaller role than they did in 2004, when the $600 million they raised in unlimited amounts was used to influence the presidential race in particular. For the 2006 election, 527s have reported raising about $295 million to the Internal Revenue Service, $151 million of which comes from 527s focused on federal issues and elections.  Rather than spending money to influence federal elections, 527s have been focusing on the states: races for governor, state legislature and ballot initiatives.

An election that is waged through TV commercials is absurd.  How much real policy information, issue based debate or real robust political rigor can come from 30 minute sound bites?  It is power being won through propaganda. 

$2.6 billion is an obscene amount of money to spend on an election.  The idea that “money” is free speech and therefore true campaign financing is unconstitutional is rather idiotic.  We need public financing of elections with even playing fields and banning private donations- pure and simple.


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