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Susan Estrich
25 Feb 2015
Courting Terror One Teenager at a Time

When I was 15, my mother let me take the bus to Lynn, a small city about five miles from our house and two … Read More.

20 Feb 2015
Boston Deserves Its Trial

Today's issue is whether the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the Boston Marathon bombing, delayed already, … Read More.

18 Feb 2015
Honoring Our Presidents

The headline that caught my attention on Presidents Day could not have been starker, colder: "Intense … Read More.

Money: The First Primary


Money is often called the first primary, because there's nothing else out there to be officially judged by the FEC reports. There are no caucuses; there are no conventions; there is no voting. Real people don't get involved in the process until well after a nominee has been chosen. The only real way to have influence in politics is to have money, or maybe to live in Iowa.

Money is easy. Since the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the Citizens United cases, the estimates of how much is and will be spent in these contests range in the ten billions. And why not, considering the size of the acquisition?

So there was Jeb Bush, mingling and reportedly demanding commitments from his financial supporters — excuse me, friends — while other Republicans were complaining to reporters that it was "too soon." The sad truth is it's never too soon.

When I was in college, I was always taught the pluralist theory, which holds that good comes from the likes of us doing our best. There always seemed to be one particular problem with this theory: Where were the chairs for the disenfranchised? As Bob Dole so famously noted, there aren't many PACs on Capitol Hill for poor and hungry children. There aren't PACs for a host of other issues no less important than those the candidates will address among the fat cats at supper.

And yet we do absolutely nothing. Our democracy rests in the hands of a few, with virtually everyone else no more than a background extra.

So who are these people who sit in back rooms discussing who should lead the country? Who elected them to anything, much less to serve as the screening committee to whom every potential candidate must pay his or her dues?

Of course, everyone in Washington can tell you exactly who they are: industry groups, associations, maps color-coded to show you how many delegates they have in each of your states.

Sometimes I like to think that all those circles my friend Tully used to draw on white boards have coalesced into something (not something he could easily stomach). This is where the money primary is being played out — in offices all over Washington where consultants working with billionaires will spend upward of billions of dollars in order to influence the outcome of our campaign. And it is all completely legal.

In Iowa and New Hampshire, you'll have kids charging around from office to office recruiting, but they'll probably be acting at the direction of some grand plan being hatched even now. The first primary has begun.

So would-be congressmen try to keep awake during the speeches about Iowa, and no matter who you are, you're staying in a hotel with lousy plumbing. Or at least that was the idealized version of it — that there would be participation in the process — and that was why there was so much jockeying for the order of the initial three primaries. But then came Citizens United, the decision that opened the floodgates to campaign spending and will succeed.

But I believe there is still something to be said for a system that ensures that a person allowed to achieve such enormous power first have to spend the dead of winter in Iowa and New Hampshire. I once asked a man at our campaign rally if he was supporting my candidate. "Oh," he responded to me, "I've only met him twice." There has to be something between that kind of democracy and the billionaire bingo for which there is no chair for the needy kids.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



2 Comments | Post Comment
I always find these arguments regarding political spending from the liberal side to be puzzling. It is the expected outcome of progressive government growth that as power is centralized and as varying agencies have the authority to write regulations that have the effect of law that businesses would spend money to influence those who will make decisions that can have an adverse affect on their businesses. It's a built in incentive of government growth.

Microsoft is a good example of a large company that wasn't spending very much on lobbying until the Feds started bringing anti-trust claims against the company. Then as expected Microsofts lobbying budget vastly increased and the Feds interest subsided.

Ms. Estrich and other like minded progressives are deserving of half of the blame for the problem they lament as it is their advocacy for an ever expanding federal government that drives more and more spending in the political arena. The other half of the blame lies with the elected officials who take an oath of office and have no intention of seeing to it that government remains within the confines of the constitution.

The solution to this problem is simple. Eliminate regulatory authority from any and all federal agencies and eliminate any and all programs on the federal level that are contrary to what is authorized in Article 1 Section 8 of the constitution. Do that and money will not be a large factor in the federal political process.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Greg M
Mon Mar 2, 2015 6:31 AM
Surprise surprise ! No mention of the CLintons' shady financial dealings and donor corruption or Obama's illicit foreign credit card electoral donations or Steyer, or Soros or Bloomberg or illicit union money or illicit union in kind financial support for the liberal fascists.

Still, Just another bleat and whine about Citizens United.

But Greg M you are entirely correct.
Comment: #2
Posted by: joseph wright
Mon Mar 2, 2015 2:47 PM
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