But it’s not what you think …
So here’s the deal. Congress is filled with millionaires. Lots of them, And the new Congress is no exception: it’s packed with lots of millionaires.
At the same time, people running for office have to raise millions of dollars to have a credible chance of winning (assuming they’re not running in a safe district with no opposition). Two Congressional races near me cost over $6 and $8 million dollars, respectively, factoring in the SuperPAC money. (Neither was in an expensive media market.) That’s a lot of cash coming in.
Ipso facto, then: raising money might make one rich. Take the money you raise, put it in your pocket … millionaire status awaits!
Except that’s not really what happens. Ironically, the rise in the percentage of millionaires in Congress over the last 30 years is as much a function of the laws governing campaign finance in the US as of anything else.
Here’s the deal: under federal campaign finance law, candidates for federal office who raise money for their campaigns can only raise fairly small amounts of money at a time. Right now, individuals can give a candidate to federal office up to $2500 in the primary, and another $2500 in the general election. (This may sound like a lot to you, but a maximum $2500 contribution is .0003% of an $8,000,000 campaign.) The rules are different for SuperPACs, which is why they exist. But any individual contribution is small relative to the overall cost of a campaign.
The reason for this is simple: if the relative significance of any individual contribution is small, then the likelihood of it leading to political corruption is low. If I say “vote my way or I won’t give you $2500!,” you can laugh me off—you don’t need my money that badly.
However, the small relative size of any individual contribution means that a candidate has to spend a huge amount of time raising money. (The SuperPACs may change this, but haven’t yet.) It’s an enormous drag on a candidate’s time. Indeed, once elected it’s an enormous drag on elected officials’ time: they spend a huge chunk of their time fundraising for their next election. If they’re a party leader, they also spend a lot of time fundraising for others in their party. It has become the most time-consuming thing elected officials do—even more than legislating.
The thing is, if you’re rich already, you can sidestep most federal campaign finance rules. If you don’t raise any money, but instead just spend your own, there really aren’t many limitations on what you can do. You can spend as much as you wish, rather than being limited by what you can raise. You don’t have to spend any time fundraising, eliminating a major hassle AND freeing up your time to go around shaking peoples’ hands and otherwise engaging in real electoral politics.
In other words, since you don’t have to go around asking people to give you their money, you don’t have to do anywhere near the same kinds of things that non-wealthy candidates have to do to get themselves a serious chance of being elected.
Of course, rich candidates don’t always win. Neither does the best-financed candidate. But the simple fact is that it is easier to get elected to Congress today if you’re already rich than it is if you’re not. One reason for this is the way campaign finance law works. Thus a law passed (in 1974) to protect us from political corruption has also helped the rich get elected to the offices from which they pass laws eliminating the estate tax, reducing (or eliminating) taxes on capital gains and other income they earn, and the like.
Which lots of people think is corrupt.
Welcome to my favorite political topic: irony in politics.
I’d like to point out one other thing: Running for office is a full time volunteer gig. Wealthy people tend to have the sorts of jobs and resources that allow one to go without income, or with a severely reduced income, for an extended period of time. Let alone the kinds of jobs where you can take a year long break and then come back to work.
In today’s Daily Comment, Steve Coll argues that putting an end to gerrymandering would help to build a better democracy by fully enfranchising voters:
…the House Republicans’ check on Obama’s power is not truly democratic; indeed, it is based on extreme ideas that would be marginalized if not for the creative drawing of districts.
Every time someone blames gerrymandering for the pickle we’ve found ourselves in for governance, I vomit a little.
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Makes me want to hit myself in the face. Repeatedly.
The previous two vice presidents, Cheney and his predecessor, Al Gore, significantly changed that power dynamic. But on Biden’s watch the “OVP” — Office of the Vice President — has become something even more: almost a conjoined twin to the presidency, organically linked and indivisible from the Oval Office. Cheney succeeded for a time by creating a kind of shadow presidency, yet there’s nothing shadowy about Biden. Indeed Biden remains, in many respects, the anti-Cheney.
What do you do — how do you have any sort of conversation at all — when “fact” doesn’t mean the same thing to both people?LaPierre: You could do what Dianne Feinstein wants and ban all high-capacity magazines, but it’s not going to make kids any safer… I get calls from gun owners saying I went to bed safer because I have a firearm…David Gregory: That’s an argument, not a fact.LaPierre: It IS a fact.Gregory: No, a feeling is not a fact. That’s reassurance, not evidence.
We absolutely live in the darkest timeline.
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The truth of the matter is that my policies are so mainstream that if I had set the same policies that I had back in the 1980s, I would be considered a moderate Republican.
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Yo Obama so cold he got his own dinosaur.
There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth, it’s established pretty definitively, it’s at least 4.5 billion years old.
Sen. Marco Rubio - During an interview with Politico’s Mike Allen, which briefly focused on comments the Florida Republican made during a GQ interview last month. Some were confused by the Senator’s answer when asked about the planet’s age, and many readers were left unsure as to exactly what the Republican believed himself. Rubio says he was simply trying to acknowledge those who have a hard time accepting data which seems to fly in the face of their religious teachings, but wanted to be clear that he knows there is “no scientific debate.” source (via shortformblog)
Guess who’s confused?
- Czech Republic
- Marshall Island
This is an important list.
Get ready for Round 2… source
Just want to point out that today’s ruling doesn’t mean anything for the likelihood that SCOTUS is going to hear this case.
Liberal schadenfreude is about to reach overdose levels. Just when you thought the dead horse of Mitt Romney’s campaign had been beaten more than enough — and most savagely by members of his own party — Dave Wasserman at Cook Political Report projects that the final count of the popular vote, which is still ongoing, will show Romney winning 47 percent of the electorate.
Oh god guys I found another bottle of Republican Tears with a really good vintage. And just in time for Thanksgiving!
Which voters waited on long lines to cast their ballots on Tuesday? According to a survey by the AFL-CIO, Obama voters were much more likely to wait on lines longer than 30 minutes than Romney voters, with blacks and Hispanics especially vulnerable.
The long lines were so bad, it took just two minutes for President Obama to mention them in his victory speech on Tuesday, with a rare flash of anger: “By the way, we have to fix that.”
Butbutbut there isn’t racially motivated voter suppression anymore!
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