opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Susan Estrich
5 Feb 2016
Donald Trump: Sore Loser

It was the shortest speech anyone can remember him giving. He was clearly in a state of disbelief. How could … Read More.

3 Feb 2016
Rubio's the One

You can pick your headline for Iowa: "Trump Didn't Win!" "Hillary Didn't Lose!" "Rubio's the One!" I prefer … Read More.

29 Jan 2016
Donald Ducks

"I'm for Trump," the man across the room from me said. We were in the ICU family waiting room, and by that point,… Read More.

The $6 Billion Scam


While all the figures aren't in and almost certainly never will be, the Center for Responsive Politics has estimated that roughly $6 billion was spent on the 2012 election, including $2 billion on the presidential contest and something on the order of $4 billion on congressional and state races. This gives us, I suppose, the best government money can buy — which is certainly not the best we could have.

When I say what was spent, what I really mean is what was raised. While there are typically a few wealthy candidates who largely finance their own campaigns (whoever thought the richest candidate would turn out, in this topsy-turvy world, to be the most independent), most of the money responsible for the awful ads and the endless mailings and the like is raised from people and corporate PACs with every reason to give, as well as corporations who are now free to spend unlimited sums. For those who say disclosure is the best (and only feasible) protection against corruption, it's worth pointing out the new scam on the block: "GPS" groups pioneered by Karl Rove and now duplicated by the president's supporters that don't even have to disclose the multimillion-dollar contributions they receive.

Why, one of my students asked me, do people donate this kind of money to politics? You could bring health care to tens of thousands of children in the world, build schools for impoverished kids, help seniors living on fixed incomes, clean up dumpsites, fund medical research, do any number of things that would make the world a better place as opposed to another negative ad.

There are some people who give money because they truly believe in causes like these. They believe that supporting candidates is the best way to further such goals.

But in my experience, which is overwhelmingly supported by the numbers, most of the money in politics is based on more selfish concerns. Banks and corporations and insurers and lawyers give money to further their business goals, or at least to ensure that those on the other side don't get ahead.

They used to bundle contributions in the tens of thousands. Now, you've got to be raising or giving a million to be noticed.

And that's just what these folks spend directly on the elections. They also spend big on the lobbyists who ensure that the interests of big money are fully rewarded in legislative and executive actions.

It is a corrupt arms race, with no end in sight and no one willing to take steps to end it.

You can blame the Supreme Court for opening the door to "independent" expenditures that really aren't. Need I add that no recent members of the court have ever run for office?

You can blame the politicians who spend more time raising money, with few or no limits on who they'll take it from, without thinking for a moment about what will be expected of them, for whom November is the only relevant object.

Some years ago, when Republicans were consistently outraising Democrats, I asked a leader of my party why we were spending so much time competing in a losing battle that was, in more ways than I can detail in one column, costing us our collective soul. His answer was clear: Unilateral disarmament is a fool's answer.

Much like childrearing, the only way the system will ever change is if we stop rewarding bad behavior.

Oh, yes, every once in a while someone gets caught skirting the rules, not being quite clever enough in buying influence. A few years ago, that person was super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who was convicted for not crossing the t's and dotting the i's in his multimillion-dollar relationships with Indian tribes. Abramoff, after serving four years, is now preaching reform.

But the most interesting thing he told an audience this week in Rancho Mirage, Calif., is not what he did wrong, but that "99.9 percent of what I did was legal, but so much of it was reprehensible." And with the amount of money being spent on campaigns only going up, it's only getting worse. TMM: Too much money.

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



7 Comments | Post Comment
Ms. Estrich wrote: "Much like childrearing, the only way the system will ever change is if we stop rewarding bad behavior."

Absolutely correct. If the government declared a 5 year moritorium on writing new laws and regulations, the money in politics would dry up for 4 years. People fund politics to protect their rights, wealth, and privileges (e.g., The NRA or the NEA.) or because they think they can use the government to change the system to advance their agenda (e.g., MoveOn.bORG or the Chamber of Commerce). Until it becomes apparent that this won't work, or isn't necessary, all sides will fund 'their' politicians.

This has always been true (e.g., Union Pacific lobbied congress to get laws/land it needed to produce a trans-continental railroad) and probably always will be (N.B., Our right to petition Congress for redress of grievances is written into the constitution). It has gotten much worse in the last 30 years because government has become much more activist. People now feel more acutely the need to defend themselves or have seen too many examples of people making a killing aided and abetted by the laws they funded into exsistence.

So, Ms. Estrich must decide what she wants more, money out of politics or an activist government. You'll never begin to drain the swamp of money until you convince all concerned that giving money to politicians isn't a worthwhile activity, as either a form of insurance or a way to grease the skids to their own benefit. Until we back off the overuse of government, reducing money in politics is a pipe dream.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Old Navy
Fri Feb 1, 2013 3:41 AM
If we got rid of the Constitution like BHO wants we could solve this monetary problem.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Oldtimer
Fri Feb 1, 2013 4:53 AM
When it boils down to it, its not the supreame courts fault, nor the politicians , nor the donors. Its our fault. The peoples fault. We fall for this stuff every year. Negative ads change our minds because we are too lazy to check the facts ourselves. We are easily manipulated and politicians know that. We take the lamestream media and the politicans at their word and they deceive us every time. If American wants a change, there are roads that lead to it. We don't need to vote for the same money-backed losers every time. There are other options, and until people embrace them, its no ones fault but our own.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Chris McCoy
Fri Feb 1, 2013 5:47 AM
Re: Chris McCoy
It won't happen! The Progressives have pushed us over the cliff!
People like Susan are ecstatic!
Comment: #4
Posted by: Oldtimer
Fri Feb 1, 2013 7:34 AM
Ma'am;... I would say first: Easy come Easy go... If those people who buy elections had to work as hard for their money as most people, they would spend all they could afford buying good government instead of perverting the one we've got...
And next... If those rich people think our worn out, frayed at the seams republic is expensive, they should consider what true democracy might cost them, which could be everything they own, and their lives too...People should not accept government for sale to the highest bidder... They should see that the more it is bought the poorer we become, the more miserable and unhappy we are, and the cheaper our wages become...I don't want to be cheap... I want to be free, and so free that if anyone tries to buy my virtue for a pittance I can knock them down in the street...
Ma'am;... You might consider that party leader an idiot... Power attracts money; and for that reason corrupts... For the people, the answer is that it does not matter who wins, because they will not change the game... For the people the answer must be, that the worst people will alway attract the most money, so as hard as it is to accept, we can clean up our world sooner and more completely if the republicans have it all and try to run this motor home even deeper into the swamp...Social forms are all held together by faith, will and participation... If it means something to us, but is for the rich just the device they use to skwoo us, then it is time for us to turn our backs on it and start work on a new form...
Comment: #5
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Feb 1, 2013 5:23 PM
Money can't change demographics and birth rates. 50,000 per month. That is the number of Hispanics who reach voting age. The GOP has long since written this group off. Money cannot buy that back. They are doomed to lose every presidential election in the future if they stay on the same track with immigration reform. The GOP has now become a party of local preference and no amount of gerrymandering will change that. Since the Gerrymandering has already done as much vote nullifying as may be possible, it looks like the only change in political office nationally will be in the House. Money can't buy love on a national level. That is now political reality and most GOPers want to deny the facts. Numbers don't lie.....only political consultants who make the big bucks lie.
Comment: #6
Posted by: robert lipka
Sat Feb 2, 2013 8:49 AM
I'm not exactly sure what Mr. Lipka's comments have to do with the original Op-Ed, but I'll take a turn at answering his arguments.

Lipka wrote: "Money can't change demographics and birth rates...."

True. But competency can change voting habits. The Democrats thought they had a lock on the electorate back in 1950's and 1960's because of their New Deal successes. They firmly believed that the Republicans could never ever regain control of the Congress. Then came the demonstrated incompetency and miserable economic performance of the Democrats in the 1970's. My mother, who had voted for every Democratic candidate since FDR, suddenly found herself voting for Republicans. I remember hearing her and her friends (all life long Democrats) marveling about how they couldn't believe they were now voting Republican. How could it be that the party of New Deal of their youth was so out of touch and could no longer get anything useful done?

Allow me to suggest that the Democratic party may be at the edge of just such a precipice again. How soon some people forget that just 2 years ago this party received the worst drubbing in an off year election in over a century due to poor performance. How soon some people forget that the dear leader got only 51.1% of the vote in the last election. That for the first time since FDR's 4th election, a sitting president won reelection with fewer votes and a smaller percentage of the electorate than he got in the previous election. These are hardly signs of electoral dominance.

Further, the present economy doesn't look all that good. Some may think this is due to Republican interference, but eventually that excuse is going to wear very thin. The Dems may have, in some peoples eyes (not mine), accomplished some great things recently. However, a continued poor performance by the economy will lead even Hispanics (who are no dummies) to ask "what have the Dems done for me lately".

The Democratic parties fate (like that of the Republicans before them) will be tied to the economy. I fully expect Obama to invent an interstellar drive before he realizes how truly bad for the economy his present policies are. If I were a Democrat, I'd be telling him to concentrate on creating jobs and reviving the economy rather than on gun control and immigration. Luckily for the Republicans, the dear leader seems to be repeating the mistakes of his first term (i.e., Emphasizing the progressive agenda at the expense of the economy. This is probably because, with the failure of his favorite solution (spend like crazy), the dear leader has no ideas left on how to improve the economy.) This could ultimately be the undoing of the democratic party.

So, much like the 'boom boom booming' economy in Ohio, the death of the Republican party appears to be a figment of Mr. Lipka's imagination. Perhaps he should pay more attention to the angel of death that hovers over his own party.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Old Navy
Sat Feb 2, 2013 1:24 PM
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Susan Estrich
Feb. `16
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 8 Feb 2016
Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 6 Feb 2016
Lawrence Kudlow
Lawrence KudlowUpdated 6 Feb 2016

25 Feb 2009 The Price of Playing by the Rules

17 Dec 2008 The Next Senator Kennedy

29 Apr 2011 Thanks, Charlie