News articles and television and radio reports have expressed shock that Meg Whitman has now broken the record for spending personal money toward getting elected: As of last week, says the Los Angeles Times, the Republican California gubernatorial candidate spent $119 million of her own bucks to get voters to like her enough that they will send her to Sacramento. Of course, for that kind of money, Whitman could buy Sacramento and have some change left over to purchase San Diego as a summer home.
In 2009, as the Times points out, Michael Bloomberg shelled out a mere $109 million of his personal fortune to get re-elected mayor of New York City--then a record.
But all the faux expressions of horror from the media are simply not to be believed.
The fact is, most of the $119 million Whitman has spent thus far (she has said she is willing to spend as much as $150 million to win election) has gone into the coffers of the very newspapers, television and radio stations that are now expressing shock and awe.
As New York's Bloomberg might say: "Give me a break, will ya!"
I don't see any commercial TV or radio station refusing Whitman's money on the grounds that it is corrupting the political process, which it is.
But so-called mainline media are suffering. They need ad revenue. Nothing like a politician with deep pockets to partly remedy the otherwise dire situation.
Spending on political campaigns--and not just in California--is out of control, and,worse, becoming more hidden.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling now even allows corporations the right to secretly contribute large sums of money to political campaigns--usually via so-called 501(c)4 advocacy committees.
Says the New York Times in a Sunday editorial, these committees, "are sucking in many millions of anonymous corporate dollars, making this the most secretive election cycle since the Watergate years."
The editorial cites a story in the paper that says "a small corps of wealthy individuals and corporations" are giving most of this anonymous funding to Republican candidates.
But the NYT's editorial largely blames the U.S. Supreme Court for this fiasco, without ever mentioning that it takes two to copulate: the other partner here being the media whose collective hand is outstretched just waiting to grab all that money.
I'm not sure what the solution to this problem is--except to do what is done in many other countries: namely limit how much can be spent (and, therefore, sold) on political campaigns.
To be honest, I don't think the current political climate in the country will support such a movement.
So, rich candidates such as Meg Whitman and New York's Bloomberg will likely continue to spend like there is no tomorrow. But remember, all that money is going somewhere--and it is going largely to your "friendly" area TV, radio station and newspaper as a form of social welfare ... for them.
Charles Feldman is a journalist and media consultant and co-author of the book, "No Time To Think-The Menace of Media Speed and the 24 Hour News Cycle." He has covered politics and police in Los Angeles since 1995 and is a regular contributor of investigative reporting to KNX1070 Newsradio
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