In an election year marked by the rise of the self-funded candidate, here's a memo to the politicos out there: Splashing your own cash to win over voters is, according to a new study, a potentially dumb investment. Quite dumb, in fact. The National Institute on Money in State Politics studied more than 6,000 state races in which various candidates or their immediate families spent a whopping $700.6 million to boost their own campaigns. But did that spending translate into success? Not really: A measly 11 percent of those self-funded candidates won.
That low rate is a good thing, right? Well, kind of. Here's Sam Pizzigati from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality:
So can we breathe a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that the rich can’t buy their way into political power? We might want to put a hold on that sigh. Money still matters.
Those candidates whose campaigns spend the most turn out to win the most, the National Institute study also found, by a wide margin. Candidates who collected and spent more campaign cash than their rivals, says the study, won 87 percent of their races.
There's a key distinction here. Modest levels of self-funding—donating a few hundred or thousand dollars to your campaign—doesn't look like it makes much of a difference, especially in smaller state races where budgets are puny compared to, say, the millions spent running for the US House or Senate.
But then you have self-funded candidates—who, ironically, are self-styled as "populists" and "outsiders"—like Florida Senate candidate Jeff Greene, Connecticut Senate hopeful Linda McMahon, and California gubernatorial frontrunner Meg Whitman, who together have spent well over $100 million on their campaigns. That kind of cash, the study shows, brings a major chance of success, given that kind of candidate's near-limitless ability to cut ads, publish campaign lit, travel throughout their states, and so on. After all, look at those three candidates' poll numbers, which continue to climb and climb.
The state representative, in other words, who chips in part of his paycheck to hand out lawn signs might be wasting his money. But the real-estate mogul who spends more on his campaign than most people earn in their lifetime shouldn't have a problem buying a seat in the US Senate.
Following in the footsteps of Nevada conservative Sharron "the unemployed are spoiled" Angle, another GOPer, Delaware congressional candidate Michele Rollins, recently claimed that jobless benefits make people "continue to do nothing." Ouch. Via Greg Sargent, the Democratic National Committee got Norris, who's running for Republican Mike Castle's open House seat, on tape saying this:
"I know this is a bad market and a very bad time. But you just cannot keep paying people, cannot keep taxing us to pay people to do nothing, because they will continue to do nothing for a very long time."
Any chance of Rollins winning over the 8.5 percent of Delaware citizens who are unemnployed just plummeted. Indeed, I'll bet that those 37,000 or so jobless people in her state would take offense to her claim that unemployment insurance is the same as "pay[ing] people to do nothing" and that aid makes people "do nothing for a long time." I'll bet most of them would tell Rollins they're sending out resumes every week, showing up at job fairs, dropping in on employers to ask about openings—hardly sitting around and continuing "to do nothing."
The very premise of Rollins' belief about unemployment aid—that it makes people "continue to do nothing for a very long time"—is factually wrong. As Harvard economist Raj Chetty hasfound, unemployment aid almost always is not a disincentive to finding a new job. And in the few instances where aid does somewhat prolong the duration of unemployment, it's not because some mom or dad found their check in the mail and got lazy; it's because that dad, who'd stopped spending time with his family or keeping up on medical appointments or going grocery shopping because he was looking for work nonstop, can now afford to see his kids once in a while. All told, Chetty says, general economic well-being increases when the unemployed receive aid. (For a thorough debunking of the jobless-aid-makes-people-lazy meme, I recommend watching Chetty's two-part presentation, here and here.)
Seeing as this bloc of jobless-aid bashers—Angle, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Wisconsin GOP Senate candidate Ron Johnson—continues to grow, Greg Sargent has crowned them the "Let Them Eat Want Ads" Caucus. T-shirts, anyone?
Florida candidate Jeff Greene might succeed in buying the Democratic nomination for US Senate after all. A new Quinnipiac poll out today shows Greene leading his Democratic opponent, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), by 10 percentage points, at 33 percent to 23 percent. Notable, though, is the fact that while most Floridians with their minds made up back Greene, the majority of those polled—35 percent—are undecided. Their support is up for grabs between now and the August 10 primary, and they will likely decide Florida's primary.
Florida's other wealthy dark horse candidate, Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott, has likewise jumped out ahead of his opponent, state attorney general Bill McCollum. Scott leads McCollum 43 percent to 32 percent, with 23 percent undecided, the Quinnipiac poll found.
The takeaway here: "If there was any doubt that enough money can make a political unknown into a front-runner, the Democratic Senate primary and the Republican primary for governor should lay them to rest," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Both Greene and Scott have come from nowhere to hold double-digit leads with just a little more than three weeks until the voting."
Talking with reporters yesterday, Meek, whose Senate bid has mostly floundered so far, bashed Greene for his profligate spending and vast array of investments and financial holdings. After delays, Greene filed his financial disclosure forms earlier this week, showing holdings topping $50 million in US Treasury bonds, scores of real estate holdings, and even investments in Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos De Venezuela. Meek also suggested that, should Greene beat him in the primary, he wouldn't support the Democrat in the general election. As Meek saw it, a general election pitting Greene, Crist, and Rubio would be a race "of three Republican candidates."
Read billionaire Jeff Greene's long-awaited financial disclosure filing here:
Noam Scheiber of The New Republicchips in Tuesday with the latest on Elizabeth Warren, the bailout watchdog and irrepressible thorn in Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's side, and her potential nomination to run the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Remember, this bureau was her idea, first proposed in 2007. And while she should be a shoo-in for the role, Warren's potential nomination has grown into a minorcontroversy and a cause celebre among progressive groups. Scheiber's story quotes a whole bunch of anonymous sources, does some back-of-the-envelope math, sizes up the GOPers who could back Warren, and arrives at the not-so-revelatory conclusion that "it wouldn't be surprising to see Warren nominated—and then quickly approved in an anticlimatic vote."
What grinds me about Scheiber's article, other than the reliance on anonymous sources, is this paragraph, about midway through the piece:
But, for the moment, what’s interesting is the banks’ silence. Three industry officials I spoke with took care to assure me that their organizations aren’t actively opposing Warren. One defied me to find someone in the industry who was. Another reflected that, from the banks' perspective, Warren might actually be preferable to Michael Barr, an assistant Treasury Secretary who is also a leading candidate for the position. [emphasis mine]
Noam must not read Mother Jones. Too bad. Last week, I reported that the industry is indeed lobbying against Warren's nomination. During a fly-in last week hosted by the American Bankers Association, one of the largest banking industry trade groups in the US, a number of presidents and CEOs of state bankers associations told me—on the record—that they used the visit as a chance to meet with their delegations and lobby against Warren's nomination. The presidents of the Iowa and Oklahoma Bankers Associations both told me they lobbied their delegations against Warren. A third banking association chief, George Beattie, the president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association, told me he's had "a number of conversations" with Sen. Ben Nelson (R-Neb.) to express his opposition to Warren running the consumer protection bureau.
You might think the views of these three banking chiefs are outliers, but Beattie added this when I asked him about the national-level ABA's views on Warren: "With my colleagues at the ABA, these views about her would be shared." (The ABA did not return my requests for comment about Warren and Beattie's remarks when I reported last week's story.)
So, back to Noam. I wouldn't be so keen to take at face value what "three industry officials" say, as he's done in today's story. A quick Google search would've proved all three of them wrong.
You've got to hand it to US Senate hopeful Andrew Romanoff out in Colorado: The man's got chutzpah. So much chutzpah, in fact, that he recently sold his $360,000 bungalow to boost his campaign's coffers in his effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Michael Bennet. Soon after his house sold, Real Clear Politics reports, Romanoff, the former Colorado house speaker, made a $325,000 donation to his campaign with two weeks to go before his August 10 primary bout against Bennet.
Judging by somewhat recent polls, Romanoff's hefty donation is a last-ditch bid to salvage his Senate run. In a mid-June Denver Post/Survey USA poll, for instance, Bennet led Romanoff by 16 percentage points. Despite winning the endorsement of Bill Clinton, Romanoff has struggled to compete with Bennet throughout the spring and summer, both in the polls and in the fundraising battle. While Bennet, the former Denver education chief, raised $7.5 million the second quarter of this year and had $2.5 million in cash on hand, Romanoff paled in comparison, with $1.6 million raised and $464,000 on hand.
Romanoff justified the sale of his bungalow with a one-liner to the Denver Post: "I'm never home anyway."