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What's payback for big campaign checks?



Glory be! Hallelujah! Thank heavens, the seemingly eons-long, brain-numbing exercise in name-calling, subterfuge, and outright lying, is finally over.

Winners are rejoicing, losers weeping, and our TV airwaves have now returned to the normal pabulum of “reality” shows laced with commercials for sugary cereals and exorbitantly-priced wonder drugs you should ask your doctor about (which may kill you in the process of making you better, but will enrich the pharmaceutical companies either way).

Never has so much money been spent on mid-term elections — estimates range from $2 billion to $3.5 billion to influence voters, great numbers of whom are just basically fed up with politics in general and would be as happy to see the whole crowd sent packing.

Oh, to have been a TV station owner in this election cycle; in large markets and small, they minted money. Billionaire Meg Whitman, who spent nearly $150 million of her own money in her losing race for governor of California, is reported to have aired more than 80,000 (!) TV commercials. In just one day in Las Vegas, 1,200 commercials were broadcast for candidates in a senate race. Even in a northeast Mississippi district, more than $5 million was reported spent on the senate race and ads saturated the few available TV stations.

Rick Scott is reported to have spent $60 million on his bid for the Florida governor’s office. In tiny Connecticut, Linda McMahon spent more than $40 million on her Senate race.

All of which kinda belies the founding fathers’ concept of an everyman government. One may not have to be filthy rich nowadays to run for Congress or a state governorship — but one had better darn well know a lot of rich people who are willing to make generous contributions.

Thanks to a compliant Supreme Court in the Citizens United ruling, the door was opened to virtually unlimited contributions from corporations, super-rich individuals, and special interest groups, helping to buy hundreds of millions of dollars of attack ads that clogged the airwaves 24/7.

By far, the greater number of ads for any given candidate were not commissioned by the candidate, but by various interest groups that have a particular ax to grind and whose donors can hide behind a veil of secrecy. A goodly number of the contributions came through non-profit, tax-exempt foundations, which collectively have billions of dollars at their disposal and which aren’t required to disclose the names of their donors.

Increased funding by these super-wealthy groups and individuals, not to mention secret outside sources, increasingly puts the American political process under the influence of a relative few.

All of which begs the questions: Just who’s really paying for all this? What do they expect in return? And, will those elected be more concerned with serving those who’re writing the big checks than we the people?

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