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Posted: 12:04 pm Friday, October 31st, 2014
By Kyle Wingfield
The barrage of political advertising we’ve already seen during this election season is making some people wonder how much more we might see if one or two top-of-the-ticket races go to runoffs. The answer: a lot more. A whoooooooole lot more.
The Washington Post, using data from the Center for Responsive Politics, looked at independent expenditures in this election cycle’s congressional races — spending by people other than candidates (and not only the kind of outside groups at the heart of the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court). One takeaway: Although outside groups have already spent some $26 million in Georgia, that’s only the ninth-highest amount among this year’s Senate races.
Spending in North Carolina ($77 million), Colorado ($69 million) and Iowa ($59 million) dwarfs the amount here, while states like Alaska and Arkansas ($39 million apiece), Kentucky ($33 million), and Michigan and New Hampshire ($28 million apiece) also have seen more spending. And the spending has been pretty even on a partisan basis: In the top 10 states (which also includes Louisiana), $367 million has been spent to boost or attack a Republican or Democrat. The Republican benefited 52.6 percent of the time and the Democrat 47.4 percent of the time, a difference of $19 million across those 10 races.
Over the past week or so, I’ve heard numbers as high as $50 million thrown around as possible spending totals just in Georgia, just for the Senate runoff, if control of the Senate were at stake. That’s a lot of commercials and mailers and robo-calls. My main problem with that prospect is the quality of the messages we’re likely to hear from them, not the quantity of messages.
But if you’re the sort who needs the smelling salts when you hear about such large amounts of money being spent in politics, consider that the total cost of this midterm election is estimated by the Center for Responsive Politics to be about $3.67 billion, or slightly more than was spent in 2010. Courtesy of the Washington Examiner, here are but a few things Americans spent more money on last year alone than will be spent on this two-year election cycle:
1. Beer ($83 billion in 2013)
2. Lottery tickets ($69 billion)
3. Pornography ($11 billion)
4. Taco Bell ($6 billion)
5. Potato chips ($6 billion)
6. Collegiate sports merchandise ($5 billion, none of which will go to student-athletes)
You can add all sorts of other items, from clothes to food other than Taco Bell and potato chips, to the list. In a country whose economic production will surpass $33 trillion in 2013-14, the $3.67 billion spent on political campaigning is a rounding error.
About the Author
Kyle Wingfield has been the AJC’s conservative columnist since 2009. He’s a Dalton native and UGA graduate, and he previously worked for the AP in Atlanta and Montgomery and for the Wall Street Journal in Brussels.
Spending their money so I don’t have to spend mine.
Its not the “working” man trying to buy the votes. Part of the problem, the cost to become a hot shot.
” As the above numbers indicate, people would have “a shot in this process” if they’d devote a fraction as much money to politics as they do to beer.”
Yet when groups of individuals get together to support their political belief some here complain about union money in politics.
Personally, I would have no problem with anyone donating any amount they want, as long as the donation is public and subject to the same tax rules as everything else. No tax write-off and no anonymous donors.
Kyle – “their systems were established long before anyone was worried about money in politics”
So were ours.
However, when it began to be apparent that money in politics was going to be a real problem for us, our politicians did nothing to change things.
What amount do you think the government spends on pro government propaganda?
So what’s the difference between elected and non elected officials pounding their beliefs into the heads of our children during their entire time in school versus buying a TV ad that anyone can mute or change the channel on?
The “rounding error” isn’t the problem. The problem is that this kind of money is spent disproportionately by people and companies that can consider huge sums to be rounding errors.
Corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech even though the Supreme Court says so.
People haven’t got a shot in this process unless we take money out of politics, which isn’t going to happen. Welcome to a world where politics has a good shot at passing sports merchandise as a “product.”
Kyle – “did you bother to read what I wrote”
I understand it to mean these countries have, in many ways, a different political system from us and, therefore, Big Money does not get a chance to buy their politicians.
If I misunderstood, please feel free to correct me.
I would like to see us have laws imposing a timeframe for the ads. Spend as much money as you want but you have to do it all in September and October.
Shoot, Kyle spends $11 billion on porn in a year all by his self.
We are all guaranteed the “pursuit of happiness”, and that’s being destroyed by constant ads – the attack ads are the absolute worst. I vote for new campaign finance law: If you can’t cast a vote for the position, you can’t fund the campaign.
This is job creation. Money goes from pockets of the wealthy into the pockets of videographers, copywriters, signage firms, etc.
Kyle – “the systems, for the most part, simply aren’t comparable in most respects beyond money”
That is my point. In Britain and most other industrialized Western countries, they know enough to stop Big Money from buying their politicians.
How about a fair question?
What other industrialized Western country do you know of where money plays as much a part of politics as it does here?
“… the $3.67 billion spent on political campaigning is a rounding error.”
Just to show you it’s really not that meaningful…
I Whine “fake polls’
Are you suggesting Deal and Perdue don’t have their own polls?
Anyone else notice that the closer we get to Election Day, the further removed we are from michelle nunn’s “10 point lead?”
Fake polls cost money too.
Captain Oblivious – “see CBS and Sharyl Atkisson”
Even if that were true, that’s hardly the whole media.
I’m surprised at the $83 million for beer. Are you sure that shouldn’t be billion with a “b”?
It’s looking less and less likely that Georgia and Louisiana will be needed for a GOP Senate majority based on the latest polls, but if one or both ARE needed, I’m very glad I have a DVR to fast forward past all the ads between now and January (like I’ve been doing all season).
Had to watch all the ads for both Mass. AND N.H. during my recent vacation up there, and I’ve never been more turned off of the political process based on those ridiculous negative ads on both sides.
@Mr_B “Yet when groups of individuals get together to support their political belief some here complain about union money in politics.”
Actually, I’d ask you to talk to our liberal friends about that one. They’re the ones who want to limit corporate spending but not union spending.
Most, if not all, conservatives I know are fine with unions spending money on campaigns (as long as the union members are OK with it, which isn’t always the case). We just think other associations of people, including corporations, should have the same right.
As for the matter of any size donation as long as it’s public: I tend to agree, as long as we can be assured of a government that won’t harass people for contributing against the incumbent party. The IRS scandal calls that assurance into question.
@Moderate_line Yes, absolutely, campaign finance reform is usually incumbent protection legislation. The ways they protect their turf is many, opaque, and bipartisan.
@straker The certainly dont discourage it.
Its what gives incumbents the power. Money
There is a reason everyone says they hate Congress but they keep sending the same people back
@AvailableName Tell that to Dave Brat in VA, who was outspent 10-1 by Eric Cantor. If you got a good message and are a good personable messenger, you can overcome the money. There are too many free ways to get a sound positive message out, but it costs a great deal to buy time to dispense negative character assassinating nonsense, which is what most political ads are.
I’ve thought for a long while most of these campaign ads are about as effective as efforts to lower the sea level with a bucket brigade. I haven’t watched one ad or listened to one telephone call this year. Cable TV, remote controls, and Caller ID are the best things in the world to eliminate political clutter.
@AvailableName “People haven’t got a shot in this process unless we take money out of politics, which isn’t going to happen.”
As the above numbers indicate, people would have “a shot in this process” if they’d devote a fraction as much money to politics as they do to beer.
@straker What you wrote before, “they know enough to stop Big Money from buying their politicians,” does not follow from what I wrote; their systems were established long before anyone was worried about money in politics. That’s why I asked.
@Finn-McCool Much prefer a time frame for the election, if only the courts would allow. A month is sufficient for all but the Presidential, maybe give that one six weeks. Once the candidates are selected, anyone with a brain has made their decision within a week, and those who vote along party lines could be ready to vote as soon as the ballots are printed.
@straker Did you bother to read what I wrote?
@straker Most other industrialized Western countries have completely different systems than we do. Take Britain. Not only is there no equivalent there to the direct election of senators. Election campaigns also last closer to a month rather than the nearly two years we’ve had in this Senate race (almost exactly two years if it goes to a runoff). Nor are there primaries. I could go on. The systems, for the most part, simply aren’t comparable in most respects beyond money.
@332-206 Wow, you not only used an ellipsis somewhat deceptively, you also managed to mischaracterize my point in another way while you were at it.
“Not that meaningful”? I wouldn’t say that. But nor is it worth hyperventilating over when Americans could take back the “oligarchy” (another commenter’s word) by redirecting just 1/44 of their beer money.
@IReportYouWhineTheGreat Can you cite the specific poll ?
And then show a connection from that poll to Nunn ?
Or is this one of those “the unemployment numbers are rigged” dealsl we pull out of our backsides.
I know which way im betting.
@straker See: ABC omitting George Stephanopolos’ name from a list of possible debate moderators for last night’s final debate between Scott Brown and Jeanne Shaheen in N.H., then, then going with Stephanpopolos anyway. (He of the contrived “getting rid of all contraceptives” question in last elections GOP debate)
@Captain-Obvious “… I’ve never been more turned off of the political process based on those ridiculous negative ads on both sides.”
Implication for the “new normal” US election process? Proposals for improvement?
@Kyle_Wingfield @Mr_B We just think other associations of people, including corporations, should have the same right.
What if the stockholders aren’t ok with it….Do you hold them to the same standard as the unions.
@Kyle_Wingfield @AvailableName Of course people like Sheldon Anderson or George Soros do have a shot. Actually, more like a high-capacity magazine full.
@Kyle_Wingfield @332-206 Then explain to me the meaning of calling that much money in our election process a rounding error. It’s your summary comment. ANY meaning at all, other than we should not hyperventilate over it?
@Mr_B And as the numbers above indicate, they mostly cancel out one another. Yet another reason this topic is overblown.
@332-206 “ANY meaning at all, other than we should not hyperventilate over it?”
No, that was pretty much my point. Hence the reference before that to smelling salts.
Then your point is logically analogous to Paul Krugman’s consistent comparison of US debt to GDP, in urging the same caution about hyperventilating.
Somehow, I’m guessing you’ll not be flattered by the symmetry…
@HeadleyLamar Yep. Don’t need a ban or other government solution in either case.
@332-206 The debt is over 80% of GDP. Campaign spending is 0.02% of GDP. In what way are those analogous?
OK, I concede that point.
But I don’t think I’ll concede this: Of the the $3.67B, can we segment the amount from ordinary voters trying to make a living, and those people and groups accustomed to writing 5 figure checks? 6-pack donations have precious little influence in a distributor world. And candidly, it’s specious to suggest redirecting 1/44 of consumer beer spending as meaningful redress.
@332-206 What’s more, the CRP estimate says spending by candidates and parties will be larger than outside expenditures by a 3:1 ratio. Spending by candidates — whose donations remain limited to (I think) $5,200 per election cycle per donor — will be almost twice as large as outside spending. So the “5 figure checks” don’t necessarily exceed the donations in smaller denominations.
@332-206 “candidly, it’s specious to suggest redirecting 1/44 of consumer beer spending as meaningful redress. “
It’s specious to point out how little people would have to do in order to match the spending by “those people and groups accustomed to writing 5 figure checks”? Really?
Fine, then people can simply redirect 1/3 of what they spend on porn.
The point is that this is not an overwhelming amount of money. If it seems that way, it’s because people’s apathy has allowed it to become that way.
Then we disagree. I believe it’s overwhelming for ordinary people to contemplate outspending the Kochs or Bloombergs of our existing election process. Adding Party spending and citing $5,200 donation caps only emphasizes the gap for meaningful participation in the election process.
The apathy we lament is, to a large measure, a logical consequence of that financial futility.
@332-206 And I would say your standard for what’s “overwhelming” is underwhelming.