If Mitt Romney Wins the Presidency, Expect Democrats to Say He Bought It

And to try to outlaw it from ever happening again

If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, expect the Democrats to complain that the Republicans bought the election — and to try to outlaw it from ever happening again.

The signs are already emerging. A New York Times column earlier this month ran under the headline “Buying the Election?” The New Yorker magazine ran a long article by the editor of Thompson Reuters Digital, Chrystia Freeland, reporting, “the Republican National Committee and Romney…hold a huge cash advantage over Obama. The biggest shift has been among wealthy businesspeople, particularly in financial services. Romney’s advantage is compounded by the advent of Super PACs in this Presidential campaign, which are not subject to the same contribution limits as parties or candidates.”

“We’re already being outspent in key battleground states,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s grassroots director, Angela Guzman, wrote in an email on August 30.

There’s a certain amount of hypocrisy about this charge. The same Times column that accuses Romney and the Republicans of buying the election observes that last time around, Barack Obama raised $750 million against Senator John McCain’s expenditure of about $84 million. I don’t recall a lot of Democrats the morning after the 2008 election complaining that Barack Obama or his donors had purchased the presidency.

To the contrary, when Democrats were on the buy side of these elections, they could laugh about it. At least, they used to be able to laugh about it. Senator John F. Kennedy went before the Gridiron Club in Washington on March 15, 1958 and announced, “I have just received the following wire from my generous daddy: 'Dear Jack—Don't buy a single vote more than is necessary—I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide.'"

Now that the Republicans are the ones doing the buying, though, the Democrats no longer see anything funny about it. Instead, they want to change the rules. Twenty-six senators—25 Democrats and independent socialist Bernie Sanders of Vermont—have signed on to Senate Joint Resolution 29, which would amend the Constitution to give Congress the power “to regulate the raising and spending of money and in kind equivalents with respect to Federal elections, including through setting limits on the amount of contributions to candidates for nomination for election to, or for election to, Federal office; and the amount of expenditures that may be made by, in support of, or in opposition to such candidates.”

President Obama has said, “I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United,” the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that struck down some of the campaign speech limits of the 2002 McCain-Feingold law. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has said that if her party retakes a majority in the House of Representatives, she and her colleagues would approve such a constitutional amendment on their first day.

Earlier this month, New Jersey became the ninth state—after California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Hawaii, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont—to back such a constitutional amendment by legislative vote, the Huffington Post reported.

Republicans, meanwhile, have their own worries about the election being bought. A recent column by the economist and CNBC journalist Lawrence Kudlow pointed to increased spending on food stamps and Medicaid and spoke of “Obama trying to buy the election with this entitlement explosion.”

There’s an important distinction to keep in mind, which is that the money supporting Romney is given voluntarily by people who own it and in many cases earned it, while the money spent on means-tested entitlements is money that is either borrowed from China or the Federal Reserve or taken in taxes. To be sure, not all recipients of means-tested entitlements will vote for the Democrats, just as not all million-dollar campaign donors will back the Republicans (ask Sam Walton, Steven Spielberg, or Jeffrey Katzenberg, who are giving to support Obama).

Elections actually turn out to be difficult to buy, as the many candidates who outspent their opponents but lost anyway—Meg Whitman is a good recent example—can attest. But if anyone wants to try, better they do it with their own money than with money taken in taxes using the force of law.

Democrats tempted to complain that the election was “bought” can always console themselves that the process reduces economic inequality by redistributing wealth from rich campaign donors to less-rich campaign consultants and owners of swing-state television stations. As for the proposal to amend the Constitution, a Democratic Party that heads in that direction is sending the message that it doesn’t expect to have another candidate with the financial advantage of John F. Kennedy in 1960 or Barack Obama in 2008 any time soon.

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  • Auric Demonocles||

    Wasn't Obama still pretty much on par with Romney for fundraising this year? Has that changed?

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Of course not. It's OK for the DEMOCRATS to spend money to get elected, but it's underhanded for REPUBLICANS to do so.

  • ||

    Is tihs supposed to be a reason to vote for Obama?
    Cause I think ObamaCare needs to be repealed more than we don't need new campaign finance laws.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Even if Romney manages to out raise Obama (which I do not think will be the case), take a look at ad expenditures. Obama blows Romney out of the water there. That's because he doesn't have to spend much money fundraising. He does that on the public dime.

  • Ayn Random Variation||

    I was just told last week by a liberal how the banks are backing romney with all of their donations. When I mentioned the Goldman Sachs people in the current admin and how much teh namks contributed to Obama, I just got a blank look, followed by that "you're such an idiot" shake of the head that liberals give when they have nothing to say.

  • BigT||

    a Democratic Party that heads in that direction is sending the message that it doesn’t expect to have another candidate with the financial advantage of John F. Kennedy in 1960 or Barack Obama in 2008 any time soon

    [cough] John Kerry [cough]

  • Pro Libertate||

    Let me check. Nope, still have that First Amendment.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    The idea that political speech is different and so should be legislated is retarded. If you were only going to defend one kind of speech it should be political speech.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Which is what the Supreme Court has said over and over again. They reject a speech hierarchy per se, but they also say that political speech needs more protection than most.

  • R C Dean||

    Of course, the cognitive dissonance of saying that political speech is the core protected speech, and the hundreds of pages of laws and regulations that apply to political speech, is, well, positiively SCOTUSian in scope.

    And, yes, regulation of campaign finance is regulation of political speech.

  • Torontonian||

    What part of "Congress shall make no law..." is so confusing?

  • KM||

    Yet another thing Democrats can get all hot and bothered about if Romney wins. Add it to anti-war marches, anti-wiretap protests, anti-warrentless search diatribes, anti-torture/rendition op-eds, etc. etc.

    Democrats who have had to keep quiet the last four years will be able come out from hiding. No longer will it be racist to protest the Executive Branch. It'll be patriotic.

  • SML||

    Interestingly, Romney also used to be a huge campaign finance "reformer"- advocating for public financing amongst other things

  • Generic Stranger||

    Obama outspent McCain 7:1 in 2008. For some reason, liberals weren't crying that he bought the election.

  • T o n y||

    Elections actually turn out to be difficult to buy, as the many candidates who outspent their opponents but lost anyway—Meg Whitman is a good recent example—can attest.

    A frequently cited example too. I wonder how often the poorer candidate actually wins in this country. And third parties like libertarians are always much poorer.

    Ideally the popularity of a politicians' ideas is what determines his success. To the extent that money is what matters, that may remain the case but it's the popularity of his ideas among those who have money. None of the actual outcomes of the radical concept of unlimited money in politics is good, even in theory. If one person one vote becomes one dollar one vote, then we aren't a democracy , and free speech doesn't mean anything anymore.

    You can even include in those outcomes outrageous fairy tales about welfare recipients with outsize political influence (and such lavish returns on their investment).

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Here's an idea. The next time you post one of your little stories... have a point! It makes it so much more interesting.

  • ||

    I was talking to Senator Michael Huffington about that very thing. Senator Zschau joined us for a drink and concurred. They were nostalgic for Presidents Rockefeller and Perot.

  • Paul.||

    So what now?

  • Calidissident||

    Tony, let's be charitable and assume you are correct. In that case, the primary flaw in our society regarding this matter isn't that we allow money in politics, but that voters are so stupid that they're mindlessly swayed whoever puts out the most ads rather than actually evaluating the candidates and deciding who they think would be the best president (which is not at all difficult to do, especially today, when you have the Internet). Which seems to expose a major flaw in democracy, and why it shouldn't be held up as some sort of unqualified good end

  • Paul.||

    Has anyone even seen or heard these political ads? I keep hearing how saturated everything is with ads, but I'm not seeing them? I'm guessing these ads are hitting places like Old Media. So that further tells me that Obama and Romney are really only reaching old retirees who still pay their electric bill by driving down to the billing office and writing a check, they actually go INTO banks, and still buy stamps.

  • Sam Grove||

    The most frequent reason voters select a candidate is ---- name recognition.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Until they can prove that each dollar spent on an election campaign is counted as a vote in the ballot box, all those "They're buying the election" morons can STFU.

  • T o n y||

    The alternative is to claim that the entire advertising industry is a giant market flaw. Or that there is some impenetrable force field between wealthy interests and democracy that prevents interference but that nevertheless allows money to pass freely through it.

  • Calidissident||

    "The alternative is to claim that the entire advertising industry is a giant market flaw."

    No it isn't.

    "Or that there is some impenetrable force field between wealthy interests and democracy that prevents interference but that nevertheless allows money to pass freely through it."

    I suppose you think a law against money passing freely through democracy would actually prevent interference from wealthy interests?

  • Paul.||

    suppose you think a law against money passing freely through democracy would actually prevent interference from wealthy interests?

    What T o n y fails to understand is that would actually guarantee it.

  • Paul.||

    The alternative is to claim that the entire advertising industry is a giant market flaw. Or that there is some impenetrable force field between wealthy interests and democracy that prevents interference but that nevertheless allows money to pass freely through it.

    Or, OR, just because you advertise the shit out of it, doesn't mean it survives the market or is a viable product.

  • KPres||

    If people vote their interests, as you claim, then democracy is a failure under the weight of the public choice problems. If people vote their principles, then you want wealth to have more influence since wealth correlates so strongly with education, IQ, etc, and that means better policy.

  • The Late P Brooks||

    Guess what, space tony- that means you.

  • Paul.||

    If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, writes Ira Stoll, expect the Democrats to complain that the Republicans bought the election—and to try to outlaw it from ever happening again

    Already workin' on it.

    Every time I turn on NPR, I'm hearing another report about how the Republicans' money has all come from sinister, super-secret donors-- a healthy mention of Koch brothers is always found within the report-- and how the all the Obama campaign money has come from poor orphans just hoping for a better life.

  • d_remington||

    "I'm just an ex-con trying to go straight and get my kids back... by donating to team Blue."

  • T o n y||

    And I doubt many actual politicians want to fly to the defense of the endless fundraising they have to do.

  • Lisa||

    Nothing motivates like the prospect of more of your money going to dirty hippies.

  • Lisa||

    well with the possible exception of being the dirty hippie who gets the rich guy's money.

    I'm not sure which is the biggest motivator, but it is easier to spend money when you've earned it than when you need someone else to give it to you.

  • dan'o||

    Funny, NYT has the count favoring Barry by a pretty big number:
    http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/campaign-finance

    Also, didn't Freakonomics blow a big hole in the "whoever has the most cash wins elections" theroy?

  • Paul.||

    Funny, NYT has the count favoring Barry by a pretty big number:
    http://elections.nytimes.com/2012/campaign-finance

    see my post above. Obama's money came from poor people looking for a better life. Romney's money came from the Kochs. So Obama's $834 million is more pure of heart than Romney's $771m.

  • Nicholas Card||

    According to the NYTimes, Romney and the Republican camp is currently being outraised and outspend by Obama and the Democrats: NYT Campaign Fundraising.

    Furthermore, this fails to take into account the money spent by the Republicans earlier this cycle for the primaries, and instead just lumps that money into general "Republican Spending." If you look at just general-election spending by both camps, the D's have well outspend the R's.

  • Lisa||

    According to liberal logic, if an ugly pedophile neo-nazi was running against a handsome unifying candidate who vowed to uphold the constitution while simultaneously donating all of his income to charity - and the handsome charitable one got $5 billion in contributions while the pedophile got $23.64 - then the handsome lovable candidate should be condemned for trying to buy the election. Is that how liberals actually think or do they get some benefit from pretending to be that illogical?

  • ||

    THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS LIBERALS ACTUALLY BELIEVE

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    If Romney wins the election, buying it is probably the LEAST he will be accused of. Liberal whack-jobs will come out of the woodwork and claim he did everything up to and including sacrificing virgins to satan.

    If the Republicans had any guts they would lie in wait until some Democrat idiot in Congress accused Romney of vote-fraud, and rush starting a general investigation of voter fraud through before the Democrats knew what hit them The we could sit back and watch the fun as all KINDS of Democrat skeletons fall out of that closet.

  • Lisa||

    I love that idea. The voter fraud issue is an example of two levels of awareness among liberals. Most liberals think it's about making it fair for the odd 110 year old whose purse was snatched and torn apart by wolves on the way to the voting booth. But the liberals who are smart enough to know that voter ID has no negative impact on voter turnout HAVE to know that most voter fraud is in their favor. They probably rationalize to themselves as some kind of poetic justice against evil Republicans.

  • Tom Beebe||

    Like the democrats, I too am disturbed by groups, such as citizens United, buying the presidency. I am also disturbed by such purchases from the Sierra Club, the NRA, the UAW, or the NFIB. Have I insulted everybody? Add your favorite to the list (oh yes, even SPEBSQA). But I detese even more the Presedency being bought with taxpayer money doled out by some government agency. So here's a plan sure to displease every one, thus one sure to be fair:

    No candidate for the Presidency or either house of Congress shall accept contributions in cash or in kind from any organization or group of persons for expenses incurred in a campaign for that office. All such contributions shall be made only by individual citizens who shall attest that the funds or other items of value are from their own resources and that they have not received, nor have they been promised, offsetting items of value from any other party in exchange for their contribution. The identity and extent of contributors to such campaigns shall be made public for a period of thirty days from receipt before being employed or used as collateral for a loan by such campaigns. Organizations of any type may, without restriction, expend money to advocate a position on any issue before or likely to come before the electorate insofar as no candidate’s name or description is included in their expressions of advocacy.

  • Tom Beebe||

    The intent of the above is to bring “transparency” to campaign financing by removing any group from the process whereby that group may conceal the identity of an individual contributor as well as limiting the influence of such groups or “special interests”. It further prevents an organization from making such contributions when an individual within that organization, such as a union member or corporation stockholder, may oppose the candidate. Considering the large equity position in certain corporations that the federal government has recently taken in response to the economic crises, this is particularly important in excluding such influence. The money from “special interest” groups will then go to promote that for which they exist, their “special interest”. The media will be directed to expositions on the issues facing the electorate, thus enhancing discussion and hopefully understanding of issues, bereft of personalities.

    To those advocating public financing I would suggest that with money comes control. Do we want government control of the electoral process? Are there problems with this proposal? Certainly; it is offered as an amendment to assure it will be thoroughly debated, for that is what the amendment process provides, and in recognition that it does indeed infringe on freedom of speech and of the press, two freedoms not to be compromised lightly.

  • mgd||

    What part of "make no law...abridging the freedom of speech" is difficult for you to grasp?

  • Tom Beebe||

    Did you read where I proposed it as an Amendment yo assure thorough examination?

  • mgd||

    Terrible plan. It was a terrible plan the last time you offered it at this site, too. Anonymous speech has a storied history in this country--just ask Publius.

    If I were to donate to a Republican campaign, my wife would probably lose her job.

  • Tom Beebe||

    Do we have a problem that needs to be addressed? I hear wails from both sides about "special interests" buying candidates. How would you suggest we resolve crony capitalism and the other ills that money in politics begets? And the principle which I seek to embed in law is that this is a country where the individual rules, not the "special interest" groups. Hate that your wife's employer can deny you freedom of speech. I hope you aren't one of the proponents of taxpayer-supported campaigns. So you propose maintaining anonynimity through bundling? Let's hear your thoughts if mine are so terrible.

  • Tom Beebe||

    I heard a civil rights lawyer (yeah, I know) dscussing the necessary limits on freedom of speech and came away sold on the necessity for some limits, be they Holmes' crying fire in a crowded theater or libel laws. He made the point, as I interpreted, that laws which treat all equally may be acceptable limits on our freedoms. "Equal Justice Under Law", a catchy phrase I've seen somewhere. As to the question of anonimity, we now achieve that through third parties, the "groups" whose role in contributions I would eliminate. Direct contributions are published per law and visible on-line, although I proposed a time delay on their use to address last-minute contributions as a means of concealment. I stood in St Louis' Forest Park and watched Air Force One wheel in at a low altitude, an inspiring sight if one forgets its purpose that evening. It was bringing the Won to a $2,500 a plate dinner hosted by a member of Missouri's leading political family. He had received $112 million of taxpayer money for a wind farm and was repaying the favor. How do we address that "culture of corruption" of which Malkin speaks? Obviously my solution is, to use an overworked buzzword, "transparency". While it would expose this vote-buying with taxpayer money, it does inhibit contribtions like that you mention (which would cause your wife her job). Would exposing her emploer's action protect your rights and hers? Note I use my real name when blogging; shouldn't everybody?

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  • nikea||

    As a potential congressman, Massie supports the elimination of the Federal Reserve and wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank financial regulation package. He http://www.drdrebeatsbydreau.com/ favors both lower taxes and balanced budgets, helping him earn the backing of the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the Republican Liberty Caucus.

  • nikea||

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