Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Money for Nothin' - Democracy Remains in Dire Straits in Oklahoma

The results are in from yesterday's Oklahoma primaries.  As expected, as is the case in more than 90% of recent US congressional races, the candidate who spent the most money won every single congressional race yesterday.

In brief: 

1st District:  A 10:1 lead in fundraising bought incumbent congressman John Sullivan a 3:1 victory over William Wortman in the Republican primary.  Sullivan will face Doug Dodd with only around $300,000 left from his nearly $700,000 total.  Dodd has around $23,000 on hand. 

2nd District: The two frontrunners in the Democratic primary, Kalyn Free and Dan Boren, managed to spend around $1.5 million between them, Boren using his $180,000 fundraising advantage to his advantage in winning 57% of the vote.  Boren now has some $250,000 with which to face Wayland Smalley, the only one of three Republicans to submit an FEC filing report (which showed only one donation).

3rd District: This one promised to be a nailbiter all along folks.  Five-term incumbent Frank Lucas spent $182,590 to win his party's nomination, despite not facing any competition in the primary.  The other major party offered no candidates in this race, meaning Congressman Lucas will be able to focus the $373,000 he has on hand on Independent candidate Greg Wilson, whose latest available report with the FEC showed just over $9,000 in contributions. 

The official $ to vote ratio (How much he spent divided by the number of votes he needed to win) for Congressman Lucas' huge primary win: $182,590/winning vote!!

Way to go Congressman Lucas!

4th District:  Incumbent Congressman Tom Cole spent $328,000 in soundly defeating absolutely no opponents -- he was uncontested.  Congressman Cole faces an uphill battle against his nonexistent opponent in the general election (he is uncontested again - not even one measly opponent), which no doubt makes him feel a lot better about having another $600,000 in the bank. 

The official $ to vote ratio for Congressman Cole's big victory yesterday : (drum roll . . . .)$328,000/winning vote!

With only one race to go, Congressman Cole has a healthy lead in the race to spend the most money per vote.  Are you nervous?  I know I sure am! 

5th District: Six-time incumbent Congressman Ernest Istook has raised more than $1.3 million for his campaign.  To win his uncontested primary, he spent (are you ready for this?) $544,000.   (Just to clarify, uncontested means he faced nobody.  No one.  Not a soul.)  Istook will now face Bert Smith, who defeated Harley Venters in their primary.

And now, what you've all been waiting for folks, those of you who aren't math majors at least, the big moment.  Will Ernest Istook overtake Tom Cole as the Oklahoma candidate to spend the most obscene amount of money on an uncontested political race?

Ernest Istook's $ to vote ratio for his convincing defeat of no rivals: $544,000/winning vote!!
Istook wins!  Istook wins!  Oklahoma's Fifth District is going crazy right now folks, cheering on the sheer greed of their money-hungry congressman, wondering why in Sam hell their elected representative needed so much money from rich folks ($463,000 who gave $1,000 or more) in order to win an uncontested election.  Oh there's bedlam!


Whew!  Sorry about that folks.  It just seems to me that those candidates who collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unnecessary campaign contributions are doing their constituents a disservice.  Chances are these men have plenty of opportunities as Congressmen to speak to voters about the issues and to get out their message for what the best solutions are to the problems their constituents face.  These guys take in huge amounts of money, primarily from wealthy donors who can afford to give them more than $1,000, in order to dissuade any other candidates from running.  By doing this, candidates who might disagree with the political agenda of rich folks get locked out of the political system.  Candidates who might reflect a broader section of Oklahoman or American society are forced into quiet capitulation to the big money machine which drives American politics.  It ain't democracy, it ain't right.

If these Congressmen are serious about representing all their constituents, if they are serious about democracy, they will give back the hundreds of thousands of dollars they don't need.  And before the next elections, they will do everything they can to ensure that congressional candidates get free airtime with which to communicate their message to the people, and that big money does not buy the silence of the huge numbers of regular Americans who are currently frozen out of the political process.

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