What does 6 billion dollars buy you? Apparently in politics, it buys you an almost unchanged House, Senate, and President.
In fairness, out of the 6 billion dollars spent, only – and I say only because in perspective it can be qualified as such – around 680 million was spent by super PACs on independent expenditures. This is almost triple the amount that was spent on IE’s in 2010.
All election season, we were warned of the perils of ‘outside money’ brought on by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. And they were right in assuming the 2012 election cycle would be classified as the Age of the super PAC, although the effect of this particular age is yet to be fully determined.
But before diving into the specifics, a little background information is necessary. The decision in Citizens United stated that under the guise of free speech, Political Action Committees, corporations, unions, and individual donors alike could raise, donate and spend as much unregulated money as they pleased, as long as it was independent of campaigns and candidates. The key here being that it had to be completely independent from the campaigns it was supporting.
This was a notably surprising decision by the Supreme Court, and became a cause of great concern for Republicans and Democrats alike. It certainly sounds dangerous, considering that the common belief is that money wins campaigns. But alas for many of these wealthy donors and super PACs, this was a pricey misconception.
Unfortunately for them, money can’t buy better candidates and a new electorate.
Many believe that the super PACs from both the conservative and liberal camps simply cancelled each other out. But Republican super PACs outspent Democrats by over 200 million dollars, according to the Boston Globe. Shouldn’t that be enough to win?
Yet sadly, we still have a Republican controlled House grid-locking with a Democratic controlled Senate and Presidency. If I were one of the wealthy donors, I might rethink how I spend my money.
That is not to say that there might still be residual benefits from donating heavily to super PACs. Many worry that the most harmful effect of this unlimited, unregulated money is not who is elected, but the influence of the wealthiest citizens over policy makers. Is this just another mechanism for them to pay for their own agendas and buy influence?
But my response to this is that if they couldn’t influence politics here, they would find somewhere else to do it. The man with the biggest wallet will always have an advantage over the average American citizen. Fortunately, it seems the average American citizen cannot be bought by the man with the biggest wallet.