Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change
Net Net: Promoting innovation and managing change

The Embarrassing Lack of Money in American Politics


We're so used to hearing about the problems caused by "money in politics" that it can be a shock to read about how how little money there is in politics.

The latest stories about money and politics are about an "influx of money" coming from "billionaire casino owner" Sheldon Adelson. The money is going through a group called "Winning Our Future" that is spending it on advertisements attacking Mitt Romney as a "predatory capitalist." Adelson is a long-time supporter of Newt Gingrich, a rival for the Republican nomination.

So how many hundreds of millions of dollars is Adelson pouring into the GOP primaries? Just $5 million.

That's right, I said $5 million.

Oh. Really? Hmmm.

As Steve Sailer says, this is chump change:

Now, T. Boone Pickens giving $165 million to get Oklahoma State almost into the BCS title game — that's significant money. But $5 million sounds like what some used car dealer ponies up to get his college football team's weight room refurbished, not the kind of serious moolah that may determine the course of American history. Reading these articles, I feel like I'm in that scene in "Austin Powers" where Dr. Evil is defrosted after 30 years and threatens to blow up the world if he's not given "One. Million. Dollars!"

Lady Gaga made a reported $90 million last year. If the theory that money has a major influence on politics is correct, she could just buy the entire 2012 presidential election for whomever she happens to favor.

One effect of our campaign finance laws has been to exclude the well-off from independently influencing politics. The wealthy can no longer marshall a few dozen of their country club friends to make tens of thousands of dollars in donations directly to candidates. They cap out at quite low levels. Instead, they are forced to dilute their influence by donating to PACs and Super PACs, which are run by professional political operatives.

The super-wealthy, of course, get to just start their own Super Pacs funded with millions, preserving their influence. It's a triumph of the 0.01 percent over the 1 percent.

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