Money, Politics, and Curling Irons
In Hillary Clinton's NY senate race, where she was basically unopposed, she spent nearly $30 million (and raised a whole lot more). In Rick Santorum's senate race in PA he spent about $27 million -- and gained only 41% of the vote.
In many campaigns, and Santorum's may be a classic, the money might as well be fed through a paper shredder. I know the thinking behind Rick's spending a hundred K on a statewide TV ad talking about how he worked with Hillary, but I doubt it won enough voters to fill one of those old telephone booths (remember them?).
Jack Murtha of PA's 12th District spent more than $2 million on his campaign, and it probably didn't add more than 2% to his final vote total. To paraphrase Churchill, "never in the course of human events has so much been spent to gain so little."
Incumbents start out with a great advantage in the forms of name recognition and voter inertia. The vast majority -- usually about 95%-plus -- of incumbents win. Bad incumbents win; good incumbents win; corrupt incumbents win; occasionally, deceased incumbents "win."
To beat an incumbent, you need money. If you're not on TV (and radio), people might wonder if you really exist. If they don't know your name, they won't vote for you.
It costs money to run for significant offices, state or federal. It costs money for campaign locations, for a few paid staffers, for telephone service, for materials to distribute, for a web site to establish and sustain. Frankly, it also costs money -- for fundraising -- to get enough money to wage a credible campaign.
To unlock the secrets of money in politics, go to opensecrets.org and click around. It will show you that an incumbent like Congressman Jack Murtha gets lots of money from PACs, political action committees.
You'll notice that he got a great deal of money from UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) PAC, not to mention a great deal more "green" from doctors. Did they give him the dough for his good government practices? Surely you jest.
He got the money for making a lot of rich doctors and administrators even richer. As the NY Times said of "good ole Jack," he "regularly trades favors for votes."
Check into the opensecrets.org section on Murtha's individual contributions. You'll see that he got MUCH more money from the DC area (Virginia and Maryland) than he did from PA, which he supposedly serves as congressman.
Who are all those people in VA and MD who admire Jack Murtha so much. Well, that's where all the lobbyists and federal employees live. Ugh.
One of Murtha's minions said the congressman's opponent, Diana Lynn Irey, was being backed by the dreaded "out-of-state-interests." But you'll notice that Diana got about one dollar in four from out-of-state contributors, most from PA (including from yours truly), and almost nothing from PACs.
Diana Lynn Irey -- I'm biased, but I'll merely call her wonderful, charismatic, and patriotic -- raised nearly $900,000 -- and ended up in debt. Her amazingly successful fundraising gave her only a small fraction of the money Murtha had.
Four in 10 voters in the 12th District voted for Diana. She needed 5 in 10, plus 1 voter to win.
If she runs again, and I vote a hearty yes to that possibility, she will need more money. Luckily, Murtha, if he chooses unwisely to seek reelection, is a wonderfully inefficient spender of campaign funds.
The moral is this: if we want more Diana Ireys, highly ethical and principled, in Washington, it is going to cost us.
We just have to decide how much it's worth to have the kind of America guided by people like Diana (and Melissa Hart of the 4th District) and how much it costs us to keep around the Jack Murthas.
Thousands of Americans stepped up to the plate -- financially speaking -- for Diana in the 2006 campaign. If she stands for office again and the same is true of Melissa Hart, I hope their financial supporters will return and bring with them many, many others.
Waging a campaign against an entrenched incumbent is a thankless task. Without money, it becomes a hopeless task.
Humor moment: Two hundred or so years ago, someone asked President John Adams what he thought about the bureaucracy, which then probably would have fit in a single building.
President Adams said, "Few die. NONE retire."
A beautiful campaign staffer preparing to get ready for a victory party: "Well, I have to go take off my clothes and curl my hair."
Me: "Well, I can't help you with the hair." (True story)