Gots to Do What They Gotta Do to Get a Bill


Me, yesterday:

[L]ook for the breathless commentary about how all these records are being broken… and money dominates our politics and it's just so sad.

Hardball, yesterday.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Andrea, what does that mean? Explain to me—maybe I do know, but I don`t like it. I find this so unsavory.

ANDREA MITCHELL: I know. It`s awful.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Here we are, and they`re going out and killing people around the world to spread democracy, and what are we spreading? A form of government based on how much money you can raise from rich people mainly.

Gosh, all you need is some sad-ass Scottish fugue piping in the background and this could be the last act of a Ken Loach movie.

First, the candidates aren't "mainly" getting their money from "rich people." John McCain got more than 80,000 donors to chip into his campaign, as did Barack Obama. All told, about 300,000 people donated to the candidates between January and April 1. It's possible that they were all millionaires (there are around 3 million of them in the U.S. after all), but unlikely, as most of the donors didn't fork over the maximum donations.

Second, who cares if they're rich? There are two possible campaign finance regimes: One where all the candidates get the same money from a public fund, or one where the candidates with the most appeal raise the most money. Under the first regime, only the establishment candidates benefit. Under the second regime, candidates whose appeal, charisma, ideas, et cetera outstrip the frontrunners can prove that appeal and surge ahead. Which is what's happening this week as the Giuliani, Romney, Obama and Edwards campaigns reveal their hauls and which is why Hillary Clinton says stuff like this:

I believe we have to move, eventually in our country, toward a system of public financing that really works for candidates running for federal office. I will support that as president.

Message: I'm not dominating the field like I wanted to, so if you competitors could, uh, go away? Yeah. That'd be greeeeat.