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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Money makes the world go 'round



The big news today (for sleepyheads like me who actually slept in!) is the release of the campaign finance reports. And there are two very disquieting trends.

The Five Brothers may not have to stand on street corners with tin cups just yet, but Daddy Myth is spending down their inheritance at a frightening rate -- $35.4 million in 2007, almost half in just the last three months of the year.

And Barack Obama shattered a record for one-month collections in a primary, raking in $32 million in January from 170,000 donors.

Obviously 170,000 people forking over cash in varied size increments is a lot better than one man trying to buy an election. But neither trend is heartwarming.

Consider that Romney's personal fortune is estimated to be in the $250 million range. That means he spent roughly 14 percent of his wealth in one year. And that doesn't count his January expenses nor the estimated seven-figure sums he is expected to fork over for Super Tuesday advertising.

In contrast, he raised $54 million in 2007.

Romney's spending puts him just behind President Ross Perot ($63.5 million) and President Steve Forbes ($38 million) in the vanity sweepstakes. It's certainly Romney's money to do with as he pleases, but think about what else $35.4 million can buy aside from elections.

Obama's January haul puts him right behind President John Kerry, who took in $44 million in March 2004 after sewing up the nomination.

While it may be somewhat reassuring that this take come out to roughly $188 a person, it's still distressing as a reflection of just what a negative force cash has become in our political system -- whether buying candidates or buying influence.

The oceans of cash being spent in Congress and state capitols is perverting our system to the core. Can anyone say Jack Abramoff?

While I'm personally heartened by what the haul might mean for Obama -- and appalled that Romney is running as a fiscal conservative who can "fix" the economy -- the dollar signs that will be forever attached to each man's name are scary.

Well at least the going rate for buying an election or a congressman is starting to get out of reach for everyone other than oil companies.

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