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Billy Kimball Headshot

God Bless You, Big Campaign Spenders!

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To all of the candidates in yesterday's election -- Republican or Democratic, winners or losers -- thank you! The billions you spent on your races during these dark economic times will go a long way toward helping many Americans -- Republican and Democrat -- make ends meet and possibly put a little something extra on the table or under the tree during the upcoming holiday season.

I know that stimulating the economy wasn't your primary goal and that you spent this money to further your own self-interest. But that doesn't mean that the collateral benefits should be ignored, especially when evaluating various proposals for campaign finance reform.

First of all, as someone who works in show business, thanks for all of that advertising. Of course, I got sick of it pretty quickly but I never lost sight of the fact that ad spending helps support make-up artists and sound engineers and caterers and lighting guys and grips not to mention the risky television development process and the money-losing network news divisions. And in small towns, where newspapers and radio stations are often owned by Mom-and-Pop operators, your dollars are a godsend. (For what it's worth, I get sick of car commercials, too.)

I bet most of you paid a pretty penny for political consultants despite the fact that various well-meaning people (often incumbent officeholders) pulled you aside and advised you to "ignore the experts" and "be yourself." Easy for them to say! Anyone who followed any of the high-profile races probably felt like I did: most of you needed more media training, not less. A friend who ran (successfully) for office a few years back told me that one of the smartest things he ever did was ignore the people who told him to ignore the experts.

Now I'm sure a lot of political consultants on both sides probably make more money than they need and drive expensive cars. Still, they hire temps and janitors and use copy centers and places that laminate stuff. And they expense their lunches at restaurants that employ short-order cooks and buy insurance from small local brokers. None of this economic activity would exist without you. It's a whole business that is built on getting you elected.

And, speaking of copy centers, thanks for renting those storefronts in dicey neighborhoods. No one else was going to do it and maybe your checks will give a landlord a chance to make a few repairs and possibly find a longer-term tenant.

I know that a lot of you have a policy of only staying in unionized hotels when you travel even if they are sometimes a little more expensive or not so conveniently located. On behalf of my fellow union members nationwide, thanks for beefing up our pension funds and helping to pay for our health care benefits. And that goes double for Republicans who probably didn't have a great shot at getting our endorsements.

And what about an extra round of applause for those of you who financed your own campaigns? Most of you didn't do too well yesterday and this morning you may have a few regrets about the unprecedented amounts contributed to the troubled economy. Please don't. Think of it as bread cast upon the waters. Political spending is one of the few areas of economic activity in this country in which the rich actually get poorer and, in that sense, you have made a valuable contribution to social stability and the redress of wealth inequity.

In the oft-quoted final scene of The Candidate, Robert Redford, stunned to have been elected, asks his closest advisor, "What do we do now?" If you won, your decisions about how your govern will be made partly on principle and partly on ideology (and maybe a little bit on rational consideration.) If you lost, you may have an even clearer idea of what to do next than if you won (if you plan to travel, please do it in the US.) But either way, I hope that you'll seriously consider running again and that, if you do, next time you'll spend even more.

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