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The First Billion Dollar Campaign?

File under: Stupid Harvard Guys

For a guy with a blog hosted at the pretentiously named at the Weblogs at Harvard Law, Jim Moore does not appear very well versed in politics.

His post about the first billion dollar presidential campaign waxes on and on about the power of the Internet to change the dynamics of campaign finance. He uses the recent success of the Dean campaign to imagine a time when Democrats will be able to raise a billion dollars from 1 million members of MoveOn.org via the Internet. There is no chance of this happening, but I hope they raise as much money this way as possible. Like David Hannum (not P.T. Barnum) said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Anyone foolish enough to donate $1000 dollars to a campaign over the Internet and receive zippy (nothing) in return should be parted with as much of their money as possible. Moore also seems to believe that only Democrats will use Internet fund raising, which is comically absurd. He feels that the Democrats ails will be cured by a large cash infusion rather than a large clue infusion. And where his logic completely falls apart is that he believes that Bush only has the good ‘ol boy and PAC network to rely on for donations. He never addresses the possibility that Republicans could match Internet fund raising dollar for dollar.

What essentially he is advocating is that Democrats up the ante and initiate an arms race in campaign spending. Campaign spending already dramatically increases every four years, but Moore hopes the Internet contributing will become a geometric multiplier for campaign spending. Again I will repeat my central theme – if you are stupid enough to donate large sums of money to a candidate without getting something (anything) in return, you’re not playing the game very well.

The reason that political giving does not reach these sorts of totals—in a nation of over 280 million people—is not that people don’t value the presidency—but that the conventional mechanisms for political donating don’t scale. George Bush’s money is raised through small networks of wealthy individuals who tap their friends, family, and business associates. While this network is effective up to a point, it cannot compare to the scalability of a nationwide system of theaters, retail stores, or the Internet.

Mr. Moore has spent too much time at Harvard. Direct mail and phone solicitation has been scaling quite nicely for local and national candidates for decades. The reason the “network” (his term) is not more effective is because most people with a lick of common sense realize that their donation “buys” them nothing. It’s like flushing your hard earned pay down the toilet.

Capitalism works, and it works especially well in politics. Deride as he will the $1000 a plate dinners (a technique mastered by Bill Clinton by the way); what he fails to realize about such “non-tech” approaches is they work because there is a product for sale. The product is almost always ACCESS! Whether it is proximity to a candidate or time on the calendar of a campaign aide to push you agenda, that is the real product that campaigns sell and interested parties buy.


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Comments (2)

Ooops--sorry for the double... (Below threshold)

Ooops--sorry for the double TrackBack. For some reason, the TrackBacks don't show up on the individual archive page.

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I'll have a look at that... No problem - I just deleted the first one...




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