It took almost 50 years, but it has finally happened. I should explain.
In the early 1970s – when Congress created the Federal Election Commission — I predicted that it would turn over our electoral process to the richest of the rich. That is because the law put very tight restrictions on campaign contributions on everyone EXCEPT the super-rich.
Those were the days when the wealthiest Americans included names like Howard Hughes, J. Paul Getty and Nelson Rockefeller – and it is debatable if any of them were even billionaires. To understand just how much wealth has been amassed at the top, a billion dollars in the 1970s would be worth about $9 billion today. That means that if there were not exponential growth at the top, the richest person in America would be worth about $9 billion – but today, that amount of wealth would not get you among the top 50 billionaires.
The problem with the law is that our Supreme Court said that it is okay to limit contributions to a candidate, but NOT okay to limit the amount of money a person can spend of their own wealth on their own campaign. I predicted way back then that someday we would have a person of enormous wealth and ambition who would just write the check to run for President.
We have already seen a growing number of so-called self-funders running for the United States House and Senate. In fact, both the Republican and Democrat committees look for self-funders because of the Herculean task of raising lots of money in small increments. Unfortunately, that tends to brush aside a lot of candidates with great potential.
Consider this. You are a candidate running for President and you will need to raise a few hundred million dollars — minimally. You would have to spend an enormous amount of time soliciting money – and you would have to budget your money over time without knowing how much you will ultimately raise. In addition, you will have huge expenses associated with fundraising.
Let us say your opponent is a multi-billionaire. He or she can immediately donate billions of dollars to the campaign – more than has ever been spent on a presidential election. He or she has zero cost of fundraising – and can establish a budget for the entire campaign from day one.
President Trump came close to that definition, but he still had to raise a lot of money from donors and Political Action Committees. He had a net worth of something around $3 billion. It was estimated that he self-funded in the range of $70 to $100 million.
Small potatoes compared to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg – who has a net worth north of $50 billion. Bloomberg has said that he will spend WHATEVER IT TAKES to beat Trump. What he really means is that he will spend whatever it takes to fulfill his ambition to be President of the United States – beating Trump is only step two.
Bloomberg will likely spend a fortune to beat all those folks running in the Democrat primary. He is especially targeting the front-runners, former Vice President Joe Biden – who is already having a difficult time raising money – and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren – who is having a problem with her exorbitantly expensive plans.
Neither of them could possibly match what Bloomberg would spend to defeat them. Hell … all the Democrat candidates combined could not raise more money than Bloomberg can withdraw from his bank account. Not even billionaire businessman Tom Steyer could match Bloomberg.
Bloomberg is the presidential candidate I imagined back in the 1970s – a person who could swamp all the fundraising of traditional candidates by writing out personal checks. He could self-fund with one … three … five … ten billion dollars and still be among the richest men in America.
Just for the record, he is also ANOTHER septuagenarian (71 years old) to enter the race. It would seem that the Democrat ranks are filled with old white guys. But that is another issue.
Since the Supreme Court has already decided that an individual can spend unlimited amounts of their own money to seek public office, there is only one solution – and no, it is not more restrictions or government funded campaigns. It is to REMOVE the limits.
Those on the elitist authoritarian left who want to have our federal government take more and more control over the lives of we the people have fostered a false narrative that corporate America is corrupting the political process with money. They point the finger at “corporate money,” but see no problem with the huge political activities and contributions of the unions affiliated with AFL-CIO – and especially the money from government unions, such as the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) – and major donors such as George Soros and Tom Steyer.
Money is the means by which candidates and political parties get their message to the voters – and that is an essential service in a small-d democratic republic. Hindering or controlling that process is a detriment to an informed public – voters who need to hear from all sides in order to make an intelligent judgment.
As long as there is full public reporting of all campaign income, we should leave it up to the American voter to decide if they do not like certain contributions. That would at least give candidates a chance to compete against the super-rich.
The current system puts the thumb on the scale for the super-rich self-funding candidate. That is not a theory. We have Michael Bloomberg as proof.
So, there ‘tis.