Monday, July 18, 2005

US Senate - The Gold Standard in Wealthocracy

As the Associated Press reports, Senator Hillary Clinton raised $6 million for her 2006 re-election bid to the Senate, bringing her total warchest to almost $13 million. In her 2000 Senate bid, Clinton and her opponent Rick Lazio spent a combined $80 million, the same year former Goldman Sachs CEO Jon Corzine spent a record $64 million of his own fortune to get elected to the Senate from New Jersey.

It's not just highly populated states with metropolitan areas that see the big spending either - South Dakota's 2004 Senate race between Tom Daschle and John Thune saw $37 million in spending by the two candidates.

With less than a quarter of the seats that are in the House of Representatives, the US Senate is some of the most valuable real estate in American government - - and it shows. The top ten priciest Senate races in 2004 saw some $225 million in total spending by the candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

This spending was made possible in part by the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as McCain-Feingold, which doubled the amount federal candidates can accept from a donor in each election from $1,000 to $2,000. (Primary elections and general elections are treated as separate, so the limits are actually $4,000.)

By raising the limit on donations, the D.C. dollar-addicts made it much easier for those candidates with wealthy donor networks to get into office and stay there, at the same time raising the bar for candidates who represent the rest of us to get into office. The candidate who spends the most wins more than 90% of congressional races, after all.

And who voted to double the limits to $2,000 ($4,000)? 84 out of 100 Senators did, including Clinton, Corzine, and Daschle.

Rich folks and their hired hands in D.C. continue to hold the keys to our
once-democratic institutions, while the rest of us are left locked out.

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