Democracy. It is, as Rod Blagojevich might say, "a fucking valuable thing." Can you really put a price tag on it? Well, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sure thought so, and that price tag was $85 million of his own money, with which he depressed turnout (and New Yorkers) just enough to eke out a win over Bill Thompson to win a third term as King of New York City.
Bloomberg may have taken self-funding to new, dizzyingly high levels, but he's hardly new to the game. As Kent Garber pointed out in U.S. News And World Report, Mitt Romney used $35 million of his own money to win the Silver Medal in the 2008 Republican presidential primary. And the same year, then-New York Senator Hillary Clinton spent $13 million of her own scrilla, mostly to pay for terrible advice from Mark Penn.
Garber notes that self-funding is basically the new-new-thing in the 2010 election cycle. But it's no guarantee of success:
The extra money allows candidates to buy more ads and raise their profiles. But history shows that self-financed campaigns have a mixed record, especially when challengers are against deep-pocketed incumbents. In 2006, businessman Ned Lamont defeated then Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary but ultimately lost to him in the general election, after Lieberman switched parties and ran as an independent. Lamont is estimated to have spent more than $12 million of his own money on the race.
The Washington Times's Joseph Weber also reports that dumping your own money into a race does not always translate into better odds:
The winning candidate in more than 90 percent of the 2008 House and Senate races was also the candidate who spent the most money. However, the record for self-funded millionaires and billionaires is far less impressive, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Of the 51 self-funded millionaires the Washington-based group counted in 2008 races, 37 either lost or quit their races before Election Day. And roughly 41 percent of them never got past the primaries, including California developer and former Republican congressman Doug Ose, who spent $4.1 million in a failed - and expensive - comeback effort.
But that's no deterrent for people with deep pockets and the desire to spend it fighting for the causes they believe in -- HAHAHA, oh man, I didn't realize how stupid that sounded until I typed it.
With the help of HuffPost Campaign 2010 human encyclopedia Elyse Siegel, here are this year's big names in self-funding. Is it money well-spent or a credit-default flop? Let's find out.