Third Party & Independents Archives

You Can Buy A House, But Can You Buy A Seat In the House?

In the race for Delaware’s District 1 at large seat in the House of Representatives three candidates are pushing hard. Representing the Green Party is Michael Berg, http://www.bergforcongress.us/, the incumbent representing the Republican Party is Michael Castle, and representing the Democrats is Dennis Spivack. The question here is: where is the money coming from? Lets take a look.

According to statistics from the Center for Responsive Politics the Green Party's candidate Michael Berg has raised just under 32,000 dollars, with ninety three percent coming from donations by individuals and six percent coming from 'other sources'(1). The Republican incumbent, Michael Castle, has raised to this point just short of 795,000 dollars, with thirty six percent coming from PAC's, fifty seven percent coming from individuals, and seven percent coming from 'other sources' (1). Now lets get to the point, the Democrat Dennis Spivack, well Mr. Spivack has "raised" (and raised for him is purposely put in quotes) approximately 238,000 dollars, six percent coming from PAC's, forty five percent coming from individual contributions, but Mr. Spivack introduces a fundraising tool that neither Mr. Berg or Mr. Castle needed to use, his own wallet (1). That's right a remarkable forty nine percent of his "raised" funds came right out of his own pocket.

When both of his opponents have less than one percent of funds raised coming from their own wallet, what makes Dennis Spivack think that he can just open up his wallet and buy a seat in Congress?

I am fully aware of the case history decided by the Supreme Court which allows candidates to spend unlimited amounts of their own personal funds on their campaigns. However while they have this right it is also the right of the voters to say no I will not vote for someone who has paid for half of their campaign out of their pockets instead of showing they are a good enough candidate to raise a majority of their campaign funds from voters.

In this race there are two candidates, Michael Berg and Michael Castle.

1. http://www.opensecrets.org/races/summary.asp?cycle=2006&id=DE01

Posted by Richard Rhodes at August 6, 2006 11:24 PM
Comments
Comment #173731

I’d like to say that anyone interested in ‘following the money’ should use www.opensecrets.org, they are a outstanding organization.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 6, 2006 11:54 PM
Comment #173745

It’s so rampant, it’s hard to keep track of.
Government is FOR SALE.
And politicians resist campaign finance reform.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 7, 2006 1:43 AM
Comment #173754

What’s wrong with anyone spending her own money to run for office? I don’t understand how using PAC money is somehow more noble - taking hundreds of thousands (or more) of dollars from large interests, for which there is certainly at least a tacit expectation of a quid pro quo, is somehow better?

Your implication seems to be that self-funding is “buying” a seat, but like with any campaign finance, it buys exposure. Anyone who thinks that funding oneself is the fast road to election, check the cautionary tales of Steve Forbes and Mike Huffington.

Posted by: Arr-squared at August 7, 2006 8:25 AM
Comment #173756

Richard:

If you follow the notion that politicians are beholden to those who give them money, and especially those who give them large amounts of money, then at least Spivak is beholden mostly to himself, as opposed to special interests.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at August 7, 2006 8:36 AM
Comment #173763

The obvious danger of no-limits on self-funding an election campaign is that someone with vast wealth could buy an election (Ross Perot might have, had he not flaked-out and dropped out).

Especially, since 90% of elections are won by the candidate that spends the most.

83% of all donations of $200 or more (at the federal level) come from a mere 0.1% of the U.S. population.

40% of all wealth is owned by a mere 1% of the U.S. popultion.

There are two classes in this country:

  • One class derives concentrated power from its concentrated wealth.

  • The other class has power only in numbers, and that power is largely ineffective due to their inability to mobilize through organization.

Government is FOR SALE, and incumbent politicians do NOT want campaign finance reform. No wonder bought-and-paid-for politicians carry the water for their big-money-donor puppeteers.

A lack of common-sense campaign-finance laws gives incumbents huge and unfair advantages, among many other advantages and perk$ that they have secured over time for their and their cu$hy, coveted seats of abused power.

For that matter, incumbent politicians resist many no-brainer, common-sense reforms.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 7, 2006 9:12 AM
Comment #173798

The 36% that Castle raised from special interest groups was more than the total raised by Berg and Spivack combined. If the quality of a politician of Delaware is based on how much money they can raise, then I won’t be moving there any time soon. BTW, if this is the case Spivack comes in second ahead of Berg by a margin of almost 4:1.

Posted by: DOC at August 7, 2006 11:52 AM
Comment #173801

NOTA: The None of the Above Party.

————————————————————————————————————————
The basic principle behind NOTA is that, as a bloc of non-voters, we are actually the Majority! Over 50% of citizens who have the right to vote, DON’T!!! When asked why they don’t vote, the answer is usually that they either do not have faith in those on the ballot, do not believe the present system will help them or simply have no confidence in the so-called democratic system of government where congressmen and presidents attend more to lobbyists and their big corporate entities than those who elect them.
Thus, in an effort to subvert the system entirely, NOTA seeks to increase the numbers of people who do not vote to the level of 75 to 80 percent or more if possible. Once this level is achieved, no politician elected with 20% of the vote would dare speak for his constituency without feeling a little glib. Not that this has stopped them before from doing so. Once the system has become so irrelevant, we will then begin to seek out an new electoral system on one person one vote and elect leaders who will earn their right to represent us.

How do we do that you may ask…

Proposal: Require our elected leaders to physically reside within their districts for a minimum period of time, say 6 months of the year. This way, they are forced to meet and hear from their constituents about what issues are of true importance to them. They will be forced to stay in touch by their sheer presence. Voting in Congress by proxy would be allowed. If the president can have a secure line to Moscow, then US congresspersons and senators can have secure lines to vote on bills without their physical precence in the chambers, as is now required.

Proposal: Make it a Federal Crime for any corporation or entity to lobby congresspersons or seek their influence upon them, period. Instead, if a big lobby wants to influence the vote of a certain senator on a certain issue, then they must convince the constituents within his district to convince that senator of the importance of his/her vote for their side. Thus, millions of dollars may be then spent within the districts of these senators on his/her voting constituents in convincing them that this is the way their senator should vote. It would then be up to those who elected this senator to decide how he should vote. It is obvious who benefits here. The local constituents. The proposal above is a form of pure democracy, as is the problem that it proposes to solve. True democracy is not necessarily a good thing for its must always co-mingle with commercial capital. Our methods of government will never be perfect. One-person-one- vote can lend itself to a mob mentality. Power could be concentrated on small population states which hold two seats in the Senate. Voting blocks could form from special interest groups both good and bad. This is democracy? Have you got the answer, bubba?

Posted by: Atron at August 7, 2006 12:06 PM
Comment #173802

NOTA: The None of the Above Party.

————————————————————————————————————————
The basic principle behind NOTA is that, as a bloc of non-voters, we are actually the Majority! Over 50% of citizens who have the right to vote, DON’T!!! When asked why they don’t vote, the answer is usually that they either do not have faith in those on the ballot, do not believe the present system will help them or simply have no confidence in the so-called democratic system of government where congressmen and presidents attend more to lobbyists and their big corporate entities than those who elect them.
Thus, in an effort to subvert the system entirely, NOTA seeks to increase the numbers of people who do not vote to the level of 75 to 80 percent or more if possible. Once this level is achieved, no politician elected with 20% of the vote would dare speak for his constituency without feeling a little glib. Not that this has stopped them before from doing so. Once the system has become so irrelevant, we will then begin to seek out an new electoral system on one person one vote and elect leaders who will earn their right to represent us.

How do we do that you may ask…

Proposal: Require our elected leaders to physically reside within their districts for a minimum period of time, say 6 months of the year. This way, they are forced to meet and hear from their constituents about what issues are of true importance to them. They will be forced to stay in touch by their sheer presence. Voting in Congress by proxy would be allowed. If the president can have a secure line to Moscow, then US congresspersons and senators can have secure lines to vote on bills without their physical precence in the chambers, as is now required.

Proposal: Make it a Federal Crime for any corporation or entity to lobby congresspersons or seek their influence upon them, period. Instead, if a big lobby wants to influence the vote of a certain senator on a certain issue, then they must convince the constituents within his district to convince that senator of the importance of his/her vote for their side. Thus, millions of dollars may be then spent within the districts of these senators on his/her voting constituents in convincing them that this is the way their senator should vote. It would then be up to those who elected this senator to decide how he should vote. It is obvious who benefits here. The local constituents. The proposal above is a form of pure democracy, as is the problem that it proposes to solve. True democracy is not necessarily a good thing for its must always co-mingle with commercial capital. Our methods of government will never be perfect. One-person-one- vote can lend itself to a mob mentality. Power could be concentrated on small population states which hold two seats in the Senate. Voting blocks could form from special interest groups both good and bad. This is democracy? Have you got the answer, bubba?

Posted by: Atron at August 7, 2006 12:07 PM
Comment #173803

My 2 cents

Posted by: Atron at August 7, 2006 12:08 PM
Comment #173804

To understand why incumbent politicians have such unfair advantages, you only have to understand how incumbents profit it. The wealthy donors (puppeteers) understand the high incumbency rates, and like that predictability. And, when it is a close race, many donate to both sides to guarantee influence, no matter what. The wealthy control the elections, because they have the money to control visibility. Voters vote based on visibility more than any other reason. Not merely based on qualifications.

Incumbent politicians have visibility and access to news media. Members of Congress have visibility by virtue of being elected, have easy access to the news media, make appearances on television, radio, and are frequently mentioned in newspaper articles and editorials. But, the biggest advantage incumbent politicians have is access to big-money to buy access to media, and run negative campaign ads against challengers.

The playing field is not level. Not even close.

To make things worse, many Americans are more concerned with their vote not counting, than with voting for the best quailified person. It’s a flock mentality. Many flock to who they perceive has the greatest chance of winning, further securing the incumbents’ incumbency.

The system, at every turn, has, over much time, been thoroughly perverted to make it extremely difficult to unseat incumbent politicians.

Challengers often, like Mr. Spivack, must dig deep into their own pockets to mount a campaign. It’s very risky. But, the rewards, as you can see, are substantial. Once elected, incumbency rates are very high.

I would be more alarmed if Mr. Spivack had billions to spend. He would then have a much better chance. Unfortunately, it’s all about money.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 7, 2006 12:19 PM
Comment #173806

Why is it saying that Mr. Spivack isn’t a good enough candidate for office because he raised most of his own money? Would you say the same about Mr.Berg or Mr.Castle?
It seems to me that someone who hasn’t excepted a lot money from outside sources would be more likely to represent the voters that put him in office. And ain’t that what we want?

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 7, 2006 12:31 PM
Comment #173864

In this case, Spivack is still an underdog, so he’s probably throwin’ his money away.

However, a billionaire could change that.
We need rules to level the field, and eliminate cheaters.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 7, 2006 5:59 PM
Comment #173956

ron brown said-
“Why is it saying that Mr. Spivack isn’t a good enough candidate for office because he raised most of his own money? Would you say the same about Mr.Berg or Mr.Castle?”

Yes I would say the same if either Berg or Castle had such a drastic percentage of their campaign self funded, but neither has done so.

The point here is that self funding of a business is okay, thats fine. In that your trying to fund a venture to privately profit, and that is how our economy works. But privately funding a political campaign, especially for Congress and especially at about fifty percent of all campaign funds needs to be an issue. If the voters in Delaware vote for Spivack, so be it that is there choice, but they need to know that Spivack is trying to buy a seat in Congress plain and simple.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 8, 2006 1:51 AM
Comment #174147

Richard
I’m running for the local school board. Most of the money I’ve spent is mine. I’ve excepted small donations from private individuals but have refused money from any business or special interest groups. I’m doing this is by choice because I don’t want to be beholden to special interest. I want to only be accountable to the voters that put me in office.
So I reckon you think I shouldn’t be elected because I’m trying to buy the position by using my own money.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 9, 2006 12:17 AM
Comment #174167

Ron Brown:
First I never said as such what I said was, “I am fully aware of the case history decided by the Supreme Court which allows candidates to spend unlimited amounts of their own personal funds on their campaigns. However while they have this right it is also the right of the voters to say no I will not vote for someone who has paid for half of their campaign out of their pockets instead of showing they are a good enough candidate to raise a majority of their campaign funds from voters.”

Secondly later I said, “If the voters in Delaware vote for Spivack, so be it that is there choice, but they need to know that Spivack is trying to buy a seat in Congress plain and simple.”

So again if the voters of Delaware want to vote Spivack and elect Spivack than that is up to them and that is their will, but this is an issue. At the same time again it is important to say that voters have the right to know the finances of his campaign, because it is an issue.

Thus my point in this post is that voters have the right to know if a candidate is self funding their campaign, because it is an issue.

My point is that Berg and Castle both had a majority, over fifty percent, of their campaign funds coming from private individuals, while of course Castle has recieved a great percent from special interest, but still had a majority of his funds come from private individuals. Thus Berg and Castle both have shown that a majority of their campaign funds have come from voters, voters who support them. So if Berg and Castle can get over fifty percent of their funds from individuals and show that a majority of their campaign is funded by voters, well if they can do this why can’t Spivack, that is my point plain and simple.

Everything which differentiates candidates in a political race is an issue. And in this particular Congressional race the way the candidates are funding their campaign differentiates greatly, and thus that is an issue.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 9, 2006 3:45 AM
Comment #174168

Ron to further solidify my point I offer you a hypothetical.

It is 2008 and a new political party has emerged. The party we will call ‘Party C’. ‘Party C’ is 49 percent funded, same percent as Spivack, by a very small community of let’s say 50 people. These 50 people give the maximum amount by law to ‘Party C’ each and every year and essentially run ‘Party C’. Don’t you think the voters have the right to know this fact about ‘Party C’? Because its the exact same thing as with what is happening with Spivack.

Posted by: Richard Rhodes at August 9, 2006 3:51 AM
Comment #174198

That is a VERY important point.

Now think about this.

83% of all donations to federal campaigns ($200 or larger) come from a mere 0.1% of the U.S. population.

How is the remaining 99.9% of the U.S. population supposed to compete with that?

And look at the unfair advantages that incumbent politicians have.

There are two classes in this country:

  • One class derives concentrated power from its concentrated wealth.

  • The other class has power only in numbers, and that power is largely ineffective due to their inability to organize or realize the one simple, inexpensive, common-sense, no-brainer, responsible thing voters were supposed to be doing all along, always.

The voters are disadvantaged by money.
Politicians are bought-and-paid-for.
Government is FOR SALE.

1% of the U.S. population has 40% of all wealth.

The only thing voters can do is the one thing they keep overlooking. Don’t re-elect irresponsible, bought-and-paid-for incumbent politicians.

Posted by: d.a.n at August 9, 2006 10:43 AM
Comment #174227

Richard
I get your point. I would say it appears that Spivack is out of the picture at this point. However I wouldn’t count him out.
My opponent in the school board race hasn’t raised any money I know of from the voters. Most his money has come from special interest and his own pocket. Yet he still leads me by 4%. A lead which keeps shrinking by the way.

d.a.n
Bought and paid for politicians ain’t just on the federal level. They go all the way down to the local level. And that’s where most politicians get their start. Special interest get to them before they even get enough name recognition to run for federal office.
Someone asked me the other day that if I was elected if planed on running for more than two terms. A good question sense I support terms limits.
Given the fact that it’s very hard to find folks willing to serve on the local level I don’t think term limits should apply. But if two people step forward after my second term to run for my office I’ll step down. If there’s only one or none then I’ll run. I personally hope though that however many time I run that I’ll have an opponent. The voters deserve a choice. Besides it keeps ya on your toes.
The fact that of 10 city, county, and school board positions up of reelection this year only 2 are contested races supports my claim that it’s hard to find folks to serve in local offices.
Most these offices have never been contested. This is the first time in 16 years my opponent has been opposed. He wasn’t even opposed for his first term.

Posted by: Ron Brown at August 9, 2006 12:25 PM
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