Deval Patrick

Loser's Millions

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Liberals in Massachusetts are cheering the victory of Deval Patrick, an ex-Clinton DOJ official who came from nowhere to romp to the Democratic nomination for governor. There's a reason for non-liberals to cheer; it's yet another race this year that explodes one of campaign finance reformers' hobgoblins. Once again, a multi-millionaire candidate vastly outspent his rivals and got trounced.

Massachusetts' loser was Chris Gabrieli, a venture capitalist who dumped $8.5 million into his race. His prize: 27% of the vote. Gabrieli follows in the steps of the humiliated Josh Rales, a toothy Maryland developer who spent $5 million on soft-focus TV ads (after bragging that he could spend millions more and he still wouldn't be holding out "a tin cup") for an eventual 5 percent of the vote. Vermont multimillionaire Rich Tarrant is looking to spend just as much, in a state where candidates regularly win spending less than $1 million, for the right to get creamed by socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders. Race by race, the evidence mounts that voters don't need a government clampdown on free speech to help make their election decisions.

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  1. This post is spot on. Of course, the fact that self-financed millionaires are routinely trounced hasn’t slowed down reform-minded incumbents. Former FEC Commissioner Brad Smith recently blogged about the “millionaires’ amendment” that was included in the McCain-Feingold bill. The amendment increases the contribution limits for candidates facing self-financed opponents. Naturally, incumbents are less likely to have to self-finance than challengers, and therefore reap most of the benefits of the amendment.

    Check it out here: http://www.campaignfreedom.org/blog/id.53/blog_detail.asp

  2. On a side note:

    Most of these millionaires know they are going to lose. The point is to build name recognition. The millions spent by an unknown candidate in his (or her if we ever get a woman millionaire) first race is more like pre-spending for the second race.

  3. If you read what campaign finance reform advocates have to say about the issue, instead of taking theie opponents’ word for what they have to say, you’ll quickly discover that concern about self-financed candidates is much less of a concern than the inordinate time and influence that candidates and office holders devote to securing donations.

  4. jason,

    Tell that to local legend Capri Cafaro, who has spend a bunch of her own money, lost handily the first time, and couldn’t even win the primary the second time (this year). Granted, the fact that she is a grating little bitch might have something to do with it, or maybe she is the exception that proves the rule.

  5. If you read what campaign finance reform advocates have to say about the issue, instead of taking theie opponents’ word for what they have to say, you’ll quickly discover that concern about self-financed candidates is much less of a concern than the inordinate time and influence that candidates and office holders devote to securing donations.

    And if you look at what campaign finance reform advocates have put into law, instead of taking their word for what the law is going to do…

  6. No, no, campaign finance reform has reduced corruption in some measurable way. I can feel the pure souls in Washington as we speak. We’re only sending good Jedis to DC now.

    Rather than worry about the money candidates get, I’d like to chain the politicians down when in office, so that what anyone could buy for their money would be extremely limited. On top of that, I’d like any hint of wrongdoing, corruption, or even run-of-the-mill unethical behavior to result in severe penalties (like removal from office) instead of the pat on the head most bad actors get.? At least there’s some jail time coming for the most recent batch.

    ?Can I start blathering on about the Censor again, or is that just an incredibly tired topic? 🙂

  7. Joe sees a problem with the current campaign finance situation

    “that concern about self-financed candidates is much less of a concern than the inordinate time and influence that candidates and office holders devote to securing donations.”

    Unfortuantely Joe does not recognize what caused this problem, donation limits put in place by earlier rounds of campaign finance reform. He also does not recognize that the more campaign finance reform is attempted the worse the system gets.

    1. The system has become less transparent e.g. the 527 groups

    2. More money is spent e.g. 527 groups again

    3. There is less accountability e.g. 527 groups again

    3. The chances of incumbents losing an election let alone facing any kind of a challenger has been steadily dropping.

    Campaign finance reform is really incumbent protection. The incumbents write the law do you really think they will put anything in it that would hurt their chances of holding onto their seat?

    Yet every time campaign finance reform flops and gives bad results Joe and the reformers like the good regulation junkies are say lets just write a few more regulations and that will fix the system.

    If you really want to reform the system only one regualtion is needed. Full reporting of all donations within two weeks of reception onto a searchable internet database.

  8. “And if you look at what campaign finance reform advocates have put into law, instead of taking their word for what the law is going to do…”

    You’ll find that self-financed campaigns were not one of the major problems CFRers discussed, and that very little was done to regulate them.

  9. TJIT,

    What makes you think I am unaware of either the problems you mention, or the role of earlier reforms in shaping them?

    There is a bit of a “collect the trash, and the dumpster fills up again” dynamic to campaign finance, but I don’t conclude that that renders the effort useless, any more than the trash collectors do. Some problems are persistent, and need to be managed.

  10. CFR has done nothing to inhibit corruption in D.C. Corrupt has been and continues to be pervasive in American politics.

    On the other hand, it is so ineffective it probably hasn’t harmed much of our First Amendment speech rights.

    I’d say that major problem with CFR is some of the more radical goals of some CFR activists, such as public financing of campaigns.

    What would be nice is a reform of ballot access laws, but you won’t see many Democrats or Republicans advocating such things. I wonder why?

  11. joe is being disingenuous. The 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act did limited self-financing by candidates, along with overall expenditures, but those parts of the law were struck down in Buckley v. Valeo. Had they not been, the anti-1st Amendment types would be very happy to continue preventing those practices.

    BTW, just off the top of my head I come up with Jay Rockefeller, Jon Corzine, Maria Cantwell, Mark Dayton and Herb Kohl as Senators who splashed out to buy a seat and won. Dayton tried more than once before he finally hit the jackpot. I’m sure there are more. Even if the losers outnumber the winners, both official parties recruit rich folks to run as it is one of the only ways to guarantee that your guy will be competitive.

    Kevin

  12. Phileleutherus Lipsiensis,

    Boy, those monster parties sure do hate the wee, hapless third parties, huh? Lord forbid we have any kind of alternative.

    joe, I didn’t mention it before, but I was a little surprised that you don’t have a bigger problem with the seeming increase in the number of wealthy people being tapped to run for office. That does seem to be a direct result of the campaign reform efforts, and it isn’t a good thing, in my book.

    Money and politics are inexorably linked. All the laws in the world won’t stop that. All we can do is attack corruption and minimize the damage that any politician can do by limiting his power. Anything else is smoke and mirrors.

  13. I’d say that major problem with CFR is some of the more radical goals of some CFR activists, such as public financing of campaigns.

    This, ultimately is the end-game move of the hard-core campaing finance ‘reformers’. And if you think I’m going to let one goddamned red cent of my tax money go into allowing the government to choose the viable candidates for me, you’ve got another thing coming.

  14. Paul

    Read your comment. Bang on.

    Your ‘end game’ is where we Canadians are now. The Established Parties are now firmly locked in place. (And here, there is not even the loophole to spend your own money.)

    The campaign finance control argument always boils down to “other people [but not the proponent] are unduly influenced by money spent on a campaign.”

    Joe’s argument has some validity. Campaign donors always expect favors in return. However, the major factor driving the influence peddling is the increasing interference in the economy on the part of the politic class, which gives the donors a reason to seek favors.

  15. However, the major factor driving the influence peddling is the increasing interference in the economy on the part of the politic class, which gives the donors a reason to seek favors.

    Therein lies the rub. The constant perpetuation of ‘public/private’ partnerships which are the damned demon-spawn of modern politics are the driving factor in this type of chicanery.

    To paraphrase one of my favorite writers, if politicians didn’t control buying and selling, politicians wouldn’t be bought and sold. It’s when the political process has such say in the day to day transactions of common folk, that the common folk band together, form pacs, or push corporations (via investors) to influence said politicians– usually through contributions.

    Everyone acts like a campaign contribution is a sinister tool to influence politicians. For god’s sake, of course it is. You can still have laws on the books which deal with corruption without having to assault free speech and limit what organized groups can say or give to a specific pol.

  16. Subversive question:

    • What do candidates spend campaign contributions or their own funds on?
    • Advertising to tell the voters where they stand.
    • What do voters do with this information?
      1. Decide how to vote then
      2. Tune it out.

    How is this a problem? In jf’s case, the more money Cafaro spends to buy more minutes of advertising showing voters she’s “a grating little bitch” the more likely she is to lose.

  17. Subversive question:

    • What do candidates spend campaign contributions or their own funds on?
    • Advertising to tell the voters where they stand.
    • What do voters do with this information?
      1. Decide how to vote then
      2. Tune it out.

    How is this a problem? In jf’s case, the more money Cafaro spends to buy more minutes of advertising showing voters she’s “a grating little bitch” the more likely she is to lose.

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