Tuesday, February 17, 2004

How Big Donors Alter Campaigns
Today's Wall Street Journal offers a clear insight into just how big money distorts our politics long before a candidate even wins office. John Kerry, who barring a huge scandal would appear to have pretty much cinched the Democratic nomination for president, now needs to furiously raise funds to compete with President Bush. Bush is sitting on something like a hundred million dollars in his warchest. To try to catch up, Kerry is going to where the money is -- Wall Street. "If we want ammunition to compete," says one Kerry backer, "the financial community has got to get on board now."

The story claims that there are indeed many moderate Republican Wall Streeters who are concerned about the economy and the deficit, and willing to back an alternative to Bush. But, there is a price to pay for a Democrat who wants to raise money on Wall Street. These donors want him to tone down his "populist, corporate-bashing rhetoric." Kerry's advisors are telling the big donors not to worry, that Kerry is secretly very pro-business and he'll be much more "nuanced" going forward.

Wall Street was fond of Bill Clinton as well. One thing we can know for certain is that there will always be one candidate willing to take a pro-corporation line and take the corporate money that follows. That being the case, the other leading candidate has to win the support of at least some folks on Wall Street as well, just to try to keep up. This all but guarantees that both leading party candidates will feel the need to steer clear of too much criticism of corporate America in their campaigns. Even if the rest of us are getting screwed by corporate America, our candidates don't dare say so. If voters find our candidates campaigns full of hot air but short of substance and unwilling to stand up to the special interests that are taking advantage of working families, they tend to stay home and not vote for anyone. This works just fine for the candidates, as they can still win with a smaller electorate. In fact, its easier. And, it works just fine for Wall Street. Whichever candidate wins, they can be sure that they'll have a "nuanced" position when it comes to standing up for the rest of us.

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