Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Utah's High Rollers

The clinking sound of free-falling coins you might hear from the western slope of the Rockies is not coming from gambler-friendly Nevada – it’s coming from neighboring Utah, where the candidates for the Republican gubernatorial nomination are spending big bucks for their shot at the state's highest political office. And, as reported here, in the Deseret Morning News, it's working. According to the latest polls, multi-millionaires Jon Huntsman Jr. and Fred Lampropoulos are running first and second respectively. These two men also happen to be the two largest spenders in the race so far. Huntsman has spent almost $750,000; Lampropoulos over $2,200,000 (not including the $350,000 he spent on radio time in the last year talking about his beliefs. See here for Derek's January post on these radio spots.)

Coincidence? Just ask Lampropoulos campaign spokesman Dave Hansen, who had this to say to The Salt Lake Tribune here:

"If we had spent less, we'd be right there battling for sixth place with Hellewell and Benson."

Well said, Mr. Hansen. Or put another way, the more money a candidate spends, the better that candidate's chances for election. And for these guys, no problem. Huntsman, eldest heir to a $2.5 billion petrochemical fortune, can simply turn to his family for a little financial help. (To the tune of a measly $145,000 so far.) And Lampropoulos? Shoot. He doesn't even need to bother family, much less actual voters. 95% of his campaign funds (nearly $2,000,000) have come from . . . himself.

So, to recap: money drastically improves a candidate's chances for election, and rich people can spend as much as they want to get themselves elected.

What does this all mean? Let's ask current Governor, Republican Olene Walker, what she thinks:
"We're setting a new standard for Utah politics that I hope doesn't exclude the average person from running."
Indeed. Here at TheRestofUs.org, we share the Governor's concerns. It seems like the average American has a better chance of beating Vegas than getting a fair race against a rich candidate who can spend unlimited millions of their own money. Maybe we should all just move to Nevada and cash this democracy in, because unless we get serious about reforming a campaign finance system which drastically favors the rich over the rest of us, I don't like our chances.

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