What you can and can’t buy for $60 million

The campaign cycle that just ended was the first full flowering of the weed that we call the Citizens United  system of campaign finance — accidental, inexcusable, indefensible. But, it turns out, money can’t necessarily buy election victory.

Although he is currently ranked (by Forbes) as the 12th richest person in the world, casino billioinaire Sheldon Adelson was relatively obscure until he emerged this year as a bottomless of campaign funds for the presidential aspirations of Newt Gingrich. (During that phase, Adelson bankrolled a short film attempting to demonstrate that Mitt Romney had no chance to beat Pres. Obama.)

After the demise of the Gingrich campaign, Adelson became the largest donor to pro-Romney SuperPACs, at one point stating that there was no limit to what he was willing to spend to defeat Obama.  Adelson also put his millions behind several congressional candidates. In a piece yesterday, the New York Times described him as “the biggest single donor in political history” with contributions totaling more than $60 million. The Times also noted that all eight candidates who benefitted from Adelson’s public-spirited generosity lost.

The piece was headlined: “Little to Show for Cash Flood by Big Donors.”

According to the Times, Karl Rove, who founded some of the SuperPACs through which a goodly hunk of the money was spent, consoled the donors by telling them that without their efforts, Romney would have lost by a larger margin.

Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone, one Romney’s top fund-raisers, told this to the Times: “All I can say is the American people have spoken.”

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Mike Worcester on 11/08/2012 - 11:57 am.

    The People Spoke Alright

    Yes Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone, the people indeed “spoke” election day. We said that we will not be bullied by billionaires. How does that sound to you, sir?

  2. Submitted by Diane Nelson on 11/08/2012 - 12:36 pm.


    This is good to point out! Likewise, Rachel Maddow pointed out last night – all 9 candidate and incumbent crazies (Murdock, Akin, all white males with no medical degrees) who spouted off rape, pregancy and abortion misinformation on camera lost their elections.

    No one could have planned all of this any better.

  3. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/08/2012 - 12:54 pm.

    What you can buy with $60 million ( or $390 million, overall) is wide exposure for your views.

    But dollars are not votes (thank God).

    A bigger question is, “Is the day of influential advertising near and end? Who relies on advertising for their decisions these days? Who is that unsophisticated (perhaps a critical diminishing demographic?) Advantages and disadvantages can be emphasized and brought into the discussion, but blind acceptance of the paid narrator’s script is very rare. It’s far to easy to get second opinions, other view-points, fact-check, etc.. And, these days, there are multiple work-arounds and technical solutions specifically designed to make it easier to avoid advertising.

    Personally, after decades of more advertising, I believe the more often and more loudly something is said, the more dubious and counter-factual the claim must be. But that may be just me.

  4. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 11/08/2012 - 01:04 pm.

    Money can’t necessarily buy elections

    but that won’t stop people from trying. If the Supreme Court won’t overrule Citizen’s United, maybe Congress (or the Minnesota legislature) can pass a steep tax on expenditures on elections. Even if one does not believe that people, or their corporate alter egos who can afford to blow the amounts spent on this last election have way too much money, such people and corporations and their money have an unhealthy and disproportionate amount of influence on public policy. Unfortunately, a lot of those who spend vast amounts on elections spend it on both parties, to hedge their “bets”. So spending pays even when you “lose.” These people get to dictate the country’s priorities and agenda even where it means ignoring threats, like climate change, which imperil the very survival of life. Time to turn over a new leaf.

  5. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 11/08/2012 - 03:22 pm.

    I am amused that Rove is now saying Obama won “by suppressing the vote” with negative campaign ads that “turned off” potential voters.


    • Submitted by Diane Nelson on 11/08/2012 - 05:25 pm.

      I think they call that

      Psychological projection.

      Romney did it too near the end, tellling Obama to take his hate back to chicago. Huh?

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