Self-financed candidates usually don’t win.
Over the past decade, only 11 percent of self-financed statewide candidates have won election, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
We can even see those trends in the 2010 primary elections. Billionaire Jeff Greene spent $23 million but still lost the Democratic Senate primary in Florida to Rep. Kendrick Meek. And Craig Miller, the former CEO of the Ruth's Chris Steak House chain, lost his bid to win the Republican nomination for Florida's 24th congressional district despite spending half a million of his own money on the race.
The trends may continue tonight. Florida gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott has dumped $73 million of his own money into his campaign but is still running neck-and-neck against Democrat Alex Sink in a southern state that hasn’t elected a Democratic governor in 16 years. And Tom Ganley, who leads all House candidates in out-of-pocket spending, “appears bound to lose” his race in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District to Democrat Betty Sutton, according to the New York Times’s election guru Nate Silver.
One notable exception is Wisconsin, where Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, a champion of campaign finance reform, finds himself in the ironic position of trailing in the polls behind businessman Ron Johnson, who has spent millions of dollars of his own money on the race.
The real danger, however, is not about individuals buying individual elected offices for themselves. Voters are usually smart enough to see when a candidate is trying to buy an election. Thus, when self-financed candidates do win, it often comes at a high price. Billionaire New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg had to spend $100 million of his own money to win re-election last year for a simple mayor’s race, and even then the popular incumbent just barely beat his underfunded Democratic challenger Bill Thompson.
Somebody should have told that to Meg Whitman, who has spent $140 million of her own money on her failing campaign against a 72-year-old establishment politician, and Linda McMahon, who has spent $40 million of her own cash on her losing campaign against an obviously flawed Democratic nominee.
The Hidden Money