Money and the Congressional Campaign
Money and the Congressional Campaign
It is apparent that most money spent during congressional campaigns do not buy much in terms of victory. There is no relationship between the heavy spending and the probability of emerging victorious and by looking closely at the past data, this kind of narrative can be explained in a number of ways. This is indeed unrealistic but there are a number of speculations that may be used to analyze the narrative because there is no statistically observable linkage between spending and the likelihood of victory (Dubner Web). Candidates spending had much smaller effect in winning the elections than expected. This essay tends to ascertain the reasons behind the relationship between huge spending and likelihood of victory for the congressional candidates.
According to Dubner the 2012 elections saw huge campaign expenditure achieving very little because it did not have discernable effect on the outcome of most races (Dubner Web). Historically, in the congressional elections, 90% of the incumbents seeking always win with more than 60% of the vote regardless of the challengers’ positions. Nevertheless, senators seeking re-election usually win with narrow margin compared to the house representatives due to the diversity of the states. Reelection always exposes the incumbents to vulnerability because of big expenditure in campaigns such as advertising, travelling more to their states and large staffing (Narayanswamy Web).
Congressional candidates have been spending enormous sums on campaigns to win the elections particularly when the competition is very stiff and there is no incumbent running for re-election. There is always a belief when an incumbent is running for a reelection then any candidate from any party is likely to win and this greatly stiffens competition. In that case, there is a notion that a candidate who spends the most in the vacated seats especially in the House has a bigger chance of winning.
Huge sum of money for congressional campaigns come from individuals pocket while 30% come from Political Action Committees that seek access to policymakers. PACs usually sponsor incumbents because they are likely to win since critics argue that the main objective of PAC is not to elect but to influence. Interestingly, high-volume does not guarantee victory regardless of the belief that money buys challengers’ recognition and an opportunity to be heard (Lessig Web).
Dubner explains that group of billionaires and privately owned corporations contributed more than $1billion on super PACs accompanied by wave of attacks through unrivaled ads yet the big spenders did not win (Web). Failure to return the senate to the GOP control by the Republicans was an evidence of a heavy spending with little achievement. It was unfortunate that the Republicans lost ground in the senate after pouring a lot of money in the campaigns including the House contest where the Democratic candidates won even after the Republican candidates outspent them in the final months. Interestingly, there were some cases where the Republicans were outspent but they won the elections (Narayanswamy Web).
Senate contest in Virginia that involved Kaine and George Allen who spent almost $50 million from independent group but Kaine won comfortably and another failure of the big spending Linda McMahon in Connecticut after pouring more than $90 million. There are many other examples such as in the House where Re, Robert Dold of Illinois was outshined by Democrat brad Schneider after spending $1.9 million (Dubner Web). It was later clear that most of the targeted candidates failed and they blamed the super-Pac money for their disappointment. They lamented that most of their time in the race was spent on seeking money and focusing on defense instead of discussing issues (Lessig Web).
It was unfortunate to see huger spending Republicans losing in the House elections while Democrats winning with little spending. Could it be a momentum from Obama or just another force that favored the Democrats and disapproved the heavy spending? It can be argued that outside spending led to a backlash because the spending was used negatively hence turning voters off. By carrying out the damaging advertisements a big effect of backlash was felt because maybe the voters felt like punishing excessive outside spending (Dubner Web).
Moreover, it may be argued that since money has a diminishing marginal return, voters must have stopped concentrating on the endless stream of ads, and that the money could not have any impact on the late game outside money. Additionally, the voters could have perceived the outside spending as an offensive move since the big spenders had realized that they had less opportunity of winning (Narayanswamy Web). Voters must have thought that after the heavy spending candidates realized that they did not have a better chance of winning, they sought some outside spending to make a difference.
Narayanswamy asserts that focusing so much on money oriented campaign and worrying about what an opponent can raise is more of a gaming legislation due to skewed legislative priorities (Web). Struggling to level the playing field by raising a lot of money is like riding on the imperceptible legislative choices. Nevertheless, money is still significant in campaigns because in close races, it can actually make a difference. The level of outside spending should however be reduced because of the public perception (Lessig Web). Most of the outside spending benefits some groups who do not disclose their donors yet voters are at times, interested in the soundness of the organization behind spending. Disclosure of the organizations may further provide both the media and public regarding the offers given by Congress members to vast spenders. The disclosures may greatly help in identifying the abusers of the political system and a case should be pressed to instigate political campaign reforms.
Elections should be based on ideas but not spending, as it has been because what remains vital is hearing the voters’ voice. The reforms should ensure restoration of confidence in the American democracy since the framers of the Constitution gave a representative democracy. It is unfortunate that the Congressional candidates value dependency upon funders rather than voters by spending most of their time raising campaign money. Elections are costly, they will always need money, therefore the congress will always depend on their funders, and the best thing to do is to change the voters to be the funders. This will definitely shrink amount of money spent in elections and a candidate will not send any doubt to the voters.
Dubner, Stephen. How Much Does Campaign Spending Influence the Election? aFreakonomics Quorum. Freakonomics, 17 Jan. 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <http://freakonomics.com/2012/01/17/how-much-does-campaign-spending-influence-the-election-a-freakonomics-quorum/>.
Lessig, Lawrence. Big Campaign Spending: Government by the 1%. The Atlantic, 10 Jul. 2012. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/07/big-campaign-spending-government-by-the-1/259599/>.
Narayanswamy, Anupama. Congressional Ad Campaigns Poised for Big Fall Blitz. Sunlight Foundation, 2 Jul. 2013. Web. 4 Dec. 2013. <http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2012/primary-spending/>.