Money and politics have been an interest of mine for a long time. See my 2003 piece in The Atlantic Monthly, “The Democratic Party Suicide Bill.”Today’s Iowa caucuses are an opportunity to take a look at one of the most undercovered stories of the political season — the tremendous amount being raised by all the major candidates.
Consider this. The Democratic nominee for president in 2004, John Kerry, raised more money during the primary than any other Democrat ever had — roughly $25 million. That is what two of the major Democratic candidates are raising per quarter now. The more than $100 million that the campaigns of Senators Obama and Clinton are likely to bring in will dwarf Mr. Kerry’s record-breaking take.
That’s an obscene amount. It puts pressure on everyone involved in the business of politics to bring in even more money.When Mr. Edwards calls for public financing of campaigns, as he’s had success doing, it’s interesting to note that while his campaign has raked in more money than Mr. Kerry’s did in 2004, he’s fallen short of his two major opponents. The Web site opensecrets.org puts his total fundraising at $30 million, $50 million less than Mr. Obama’s. Even as his call comes out of conviction and consistency with his other positions, perhaps it’s rooted in expedience as well.
A number of unanticipated factors have contributed to the exponential growth of money into American political campaigns: The expansion of a wealthy donor class, the ease at giving and raising money online, the improvement on the part of the party structures at identifying potential donors, and the increase of political activism among liberals in the waning days of the Bush administration. Read more here.