Why there will never be publicly funded elections in the U.S.

We just spent a couple of weeks in Iowa.

During the presidential campaign portion of the election cycle. During the pre-caucus portion of the presidential campaign portion of the election cycle.

There is nothing quite like that experience. Especially if you have friends and relatives who are normal Americans and watch television.

Nothing can begin to describe the pervasive nature of the non-stop campaigning that has been going on in Iowa since the last election and is already reaching saturation levels prior to next year’s caucuses.

We are desperately searching the internet for a twelve step program to address Newspaper Candidate Puff-Piece & Stump Speech highlights, TV Candidate Sound Byte Cavalcade and Wall-to-Wall Campaign Commercials Withdrawal. In the meantime we’ll just have to put up with our facial tics.

In the U.S. it can cost $50 million to buy a campaign for the senate and $500 million for the presidency. You don’t raise that kind of money through bake sales and car washes, so every elected candidate in the country is beholden to the people who wrote those big checks.

There are some, especially those who live or have traveled in other countries where all campaigns are 100% funded by public money, who wonder why Americans have a system where, regardless of what candidates say they stand for during the campaign, after the election they are controlled by the big-money sources who funded their campaigns.

As is often said, America has the best government money can buy.  

It’s a great system if you’re a party or a candidate peddling influence. It’s not so great if you’re a citizen.

Not only is it immoral, it is incredibly inefficient. How can other industrialized countries have brief, efficient campaigns that concentrate on policy while we have multi-year mud-slinging contests that do little but extend the time money can be distributed to various stakeholders?

Why is this situation unlikely to ever change? As in any human situation, you have to look at who profits from it. As Deep Throat (Mark Felt) told Woodward and Berstein during Watergate, “follow the money.”

The following story is a prime example of who profits from this avalanche of spending and who would be first in line to discredit and defeat any proposal to end the gravy train.  

Be well,




TV, radio look for record ad money in election

By Jeremy Pelofsky and Megan Davies

The presidential election is 14 months away and with as many as 17 candidates now running, U.S. television and radio broadcasters are elated at the prospect of billions more in advertising dollars.Many states have set their 2008 nominating contests for earlier than ever, forcing candidates to spend millions on ads sooner as they fight to get noticed.Wall Street analysts predict television stations alone could bring in a record $2 billion to $3 billion from the 2008 election cycle, up from $1.6 billion in 2006 and $900 million in 2004.Companies expected to benefit include CBS Corp., Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. and Meredith Corp., with the latter two particularly seen benefiting in the early voting states.The presidential sweepstakes could have an additional bonanza, reinvigorating broadcast mergers and acquisitions, though the number of deals will likely depend on financing, which has dried up amid turmoil in the credit markets.

“If (the market) comes back around and strengthens then you may see a resurgence in that,” said John Blackledge, entertainment and broadcasting analyst at J.P. Morgan.

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, spent more than $1.8 million during the first half of 2007 on broadcast media, helping his standing in early polls.

“We were faced with competing against other candidates who enjoy universal name identification levels,” said his spokesman Kevin Madden.

The Republican candidate leading in national polls, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has yet to run any television commercials but has done some radio spots in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to coincide with visits.

“We’re inching closer to January, this is just the beginning,” said Giuliani spokeswoman Maria Comella.Democratic candidate John Edwards, who has been running neck and neck in Iowa with national front-runners Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama, has run few broadcast ads so far.

“It will change as we get closer (to the early 2008 primaries) for the obvious reason that more people are engaged and pay more attention,” said senior campaign adviser Joe Trippi.

“Broadcast, cable is still more powerful than ‘Net advertising at this point,” Trippi added. “You’re going to see more broadcast and cable advertising eating up a large part of the message budget.

“Not to be outdone, Clinton of New York, who has more than a 20-point lead in most national polls, launched television ads last week across Iowa, the first state to hold caucus voting.

Democratic candidate Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware also debuted his first spots there this week.


J.P. Morgan estimated in June that more than 2 percent of CBS’s 2008 estimated revenue would come from political advertising — some $207.7 million — more than double the $97.8 million it earned in the last presidential election.

CBS owns stations in expensive ad markets like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento, cities in a state rich with electoral votes and likely to be the scene of a bruising battle when Republicans and Democrats select their candidates.

While broadcast television will likely be where candidates spend most of their money, political experts say they will also spend heavily on cable television and the cheaper Internet medium to target certain voters.

“You’re going to see a lot more Internet. People are more comfortable with it, know how to do it and are convinced of the persuasive power of it,” said Carol Darr, director for the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University.

In addition to presidential and congressional candidates, there will be so-called issue ads by outside groups trying to influence voters, further boosting broadcasters.

But whether the additional spending will fuel mergers and acquisitions will depend on financing market conditions.

Political spending “fattens the coffers and brings more money in,” said Frank Kalil, president of Kalil and Co. Inc., which buys and sells radio and television stations. “The aggressive good operators are still out there buying.”