With just over a month before election day, the problem of the current campaign finance system is really starting to take form. The Sunlight Foundation reports that:
The latest signal of just how profitable a business politics remains is available on Sunlight’s Follow the Unlimited Money, which shows outside spending at nearly $465 million as of Sunday evening. That’s more than the total for the entire 2010 campaign.
In the Congressional races this year, outside spending alone, not accounting for the spending by the candidates themselves, has eclipsed the total spending of PACs, candidates and their parties in 2010. Combined! And that’s just for Congressional races. Overall spending for the first 18 months just topped $4 billion dollars. That’s a lot of money enough to fund student Pell grants for roughly one million students for a full year.
Barack Obama out-raised Mitt Romney for the first time in August, and he did so substantially. Obama broadened his grassroots base, taking in donations from over 3 million donors. However, this isn’t to say that the President’s pulling ahead in the funds race is strictly on “hard money.” The New York Times reports that:
The Republican-aligned group, Restore Our Future, founded by former Romney aides, took in about $7 million, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday. Officials at the Democratic group, Priorities USA Action, founded by former aides to President Obama, raised a record $10 million in August, officials told The New York Times this month.
As a result, Governor Romney is, as the New York Times further reports, “Racing to find new large donors and rally low-dollar contributors in August even while he raised tens of millions of dollars for the Republican Party.” Given Mr. Romney’s previous success with fundraising from large donors, the winner of the funds race is still very much up in the air.
With PACs buying out ads and huge donors getting more fiscal say with our politicians, it’s becoming more and more unclear exactly how much of a say the individual voter has in the political process. It is increasingly unclear who holds the cards: The candidate, or the PAC that will get them elected.