Sunday, April 01, 2007

Opinion: Does money matter? Should money matter?

WASHINGTON - Two Democratic presidential candidates broke previous fundraising records during the first three months of the year, with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton setting a high bar of $26 million in new contributions for the quarter. Former Sen. John Edwards raised more than $14 million since the beginning of the year. Clinton also transferred $10 million from her Senate campaign account, bringing her total receipts for the quarter to $36 million.

Unlike Edwards, Clinton aides would not reveal how much of her total was available only for the primary election and how much could be used just in the general election, if she were the party's nominee. By not breaking down the amount available for the primaries, the Clinton camp made it impossible to assess how much of an edge she actually has over Edwards.

Edwards' aides said about $1 million of his $14 million in contributions could only be used in the general election, should he win the nomination. Neither Clinton nor Edwards disclosed how much money they spent in the quarter or how much cash they had in hand — numbers that also give clues to the relative strengths of the campaigns. Still, the total raised by each candidate outdistanced past presidential election records and set a new bar by which to measure fundraising abilities.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, sandwiched in public opinion polls between Clinton and Edwards, had yet to reveal his totals.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's campaign said he had raised $6 million in primary campaign money and had more than $5 million cash in hand at the end of the three-month period. Aides to Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., said he raised more than $4 million in the quarter, transferred nearly $5 million from his Senate campaign account and had $7.5 million cash on hand. Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., said on "Fox News Sunday" he had raised about $3 million in the quarter. Biden also had about $3.6 million in his Senate campaign account that he could transfer to a presidential run.

The rest of the Democratic field and the Republican presidential candidates planned to announce their first-quarter totals over the next few days. The fundraising deadline for the January through March period was Saturday, with financial reports due April 15.

Republican Phil Gramm of Texas and Democrat Al Gore of Tennessee held the records for first-quarter receipts: $8.7 million for Gramm in 1995 and $8.9 million for Gore in 1999. Gramm dropped out before New Hampshire held the 1996 election's first primary.

"We are completely overwhelmed and gratified by the historic support that we've gotten this quarter," Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle said. The Clinton total included $4.2 million raised through the Internet, typically a source of small donations.

By not breaking down the amount available for the primaries, the Clinton camp made it impossible to make clear comparisons to past campaigns or to the Edwards total. "We're above our budget for the year," Edwards deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince said. "We're completely on track to have all the money that we need to be highly competitive in the campaign."

Most of the top tier candidates in the Republican and Democratic fields for 2008 are raising money for the primaries and the general election. The general election money can only be spent if the candidate wins the nomination.

Obama also has raised money aggressively and aides said he had more than 83,000 donors. Clinton's supporters had fretted in recent weeks that Obama could surpass her in fundraising.
Obama, in an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, was coy.

"I think we'll do well," Obama said. "I think that we should meet people's expectations. More importantly, I think we will have raised enough money to make sure we can compete for the next quarter and beyond. I think we'll do pretty well."

Edwards reported raising more than $3 million on the Internet and easily passed the $7.4 million first-quarter fundraising mark he set in his 2003-04 presidential campaign. No Republican presidential candidates had released fundraising totals Sunday. For the first time since the post-Watergate era changes to campaign finance laws, candidates are considering bypassing the public financing system for the presidential primaries and the general election. Several of the top candidates are raising both primary and general election money, artificially inflating their receipts.

Candidates cannot touch their general election money and must return it to donors if they do not win the nomination.

The Federal Election Commission ruled recently that candidates could also collect general election money now and still accept public financing later, provided they returned the money they raised. The opinion came at the request of Obama, who then said he would finance his general election campaign if his Republican rival did as well. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., issued a similar challenge.

The first-quarter totals are one gauge of a campaign's strength. Compared with previous elections, attention to fundraising during the first three months of this year has been especially acute because the leading candidates have decided to forgo public financing for the primaries.


justinbel said...

Yes, I think money does matter to some extent, but it shouldnt matter. The more money a candidate has, the more exposure they can get in key states, and campaign in more states. Studies have consistently shown that people tend to vote with the name they recognize the best, therefore more money equals more votes. Nevertheless, money doesn't always guarentee the nommination, but it doesn't hurt.

BrandonK said...

I'm with Justin on this one. Money shouldn't matter, but it usually does. The more money a candidate has, the easier it is going to be for him to travel, and fund advertisements(such as the yard signs and so forth). This is why I believe that people are trying to expand on the McCain/Feingold finance reform plan. More money does make a difference, but I think that everybody should be participating on an equal playing field.

KerryW said...

Yeah, I'm going to have to go the same way Justin and Brandon are going. It shouldn't matter but it does. A person could win just because he has more signs out that his/her opponent if the voters don't pay attention. Like Justin said, people go with name recognition like saying, "I recognize her/his name so she/he must really want this position. I'll vote for her/him."

MikeM said...

I agree with Justin. I think money has a big impact on elections even though it shouldn't. On top of having more money to get their name out there they also get free publicity for having more money than their opponents even though the amount of money a candidate has or can raise has little or nothing to do with what they are running for. I think money should be somehow taken out of politics. Just because someone can raise more money or has more money to spend doesn't mean they are better for the job.

trevorhguy said...

Of course money matters, but not for the reasons you might think. For me, the amount of money a candidate raises is an early indicator of support. And yes, while it is true that a notable portion of the funds raised come from big wigs and such, most of the money comes from average, voting people who only give in small amounts, sometimes via the Internet. Plus, at this stage in the game, many people are looking to invest in the strongest candidates. This is measured by the amount of money that they have raised thus far; therefore, if the candidates have a strong financial base right now new supporters will be gained more readily. For all of these reasons, money matters.

BrandonSh said...

Money decides who can get their name out. It shouldn't, because some of the best potential candidates simply do not have the funds to campaign all over the country, run tv commercials, AND make fancy bumper stickers. I agree with Brandon (K), in that everybody should have an equal opportunity to get their message out. Third party candidates and candidates nominated by the major parties that aren't frontrunners never get a fair chance to talk to the public. So, going along with everybody else, money matters but it shouldn't.

Jahir D said...

I am glad to see that we got such an easy question to blog about this week... Of course money matters! It's what makes the world go round. In an ideal world, however, it wouldn't matter. What SHOULD matter above all else is a candidate and the views he or she holds. Unfortunately, the more money a candidate has, the more they can advertise, the more they can bash they're opponents, the more they can manipulate the feeble minds of the general American public. On a more cynical level, money also gives a candidate more leverage to... convince ... other popular figures to support them.

KimK said...

I agree with Jahir for the most part. However, I don't necessarily agree that money shouldn't matter. Money does matter and it always will. Why shouldn't money matter? Money indicates how much support a candidate has. Limits on donation amount help make the amount of money a candidate raises more representative of his/her amount of support. This does not mean that a poor candidate couldn't win, although it makes it less likely. The candidate would just need to focus more on raising money.

Megan B said...

Since someone gave me bad flavors of jellybeans, I am in a very argumentative mood; therefore I disagree with all of you.

I think that money does matter, but at least in this cycle will have an inverse effect to the common belief that the most money, buys the most exposure and thus leads to a win. I think this time around, with the last congressional election having many voters taking a closer look at corruption issues, and awareness of these types problems at a high point, that many average voters will equate money with greed and corruption. As the former vice president Henry A. Wallace once said to demonstrate this point which I believe the public will catch on to in this election cycle, “Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.” In general money does matter, without money how would any of those annoying little pamphlets be sent to citizen, how would lawn signs be printed, how would large arenas for spreading the candidate’s message be rented, how would the staff aiding the candidate be paid? The answer to all of these questions is: you need money to run a campaign.

As for the question of should money matter, of course it should. It a candidate can get people so excited about them as a person and their views on policies that the average citizen wants to give their money to them, they are obviously in some way appealing to people, who get involved in politics and would thus be highly likely to vote for that candidate. I think that some type of cross sections on from whom that the money of specific candidates came from would be very interesting and would provide some way of knowing where the money came form and why they support the candidate, such as the number of Mormon, or far right Christian, contributors to Romney.

KimK said...

I agree with Megan that money does matter; however, I disagree that money will have an inverse relationship in the campaign. Money will help candidates advertise more and get their names out there, contributing to winning the election in a large way. While it is true that money can be associated with corruption, all candidates in the running will amass large sums of money. Whether a candidate has $10 million or $30 million, the average citizen would agree that the candidate has a great deal of money. Therefore, why would one candidate be corrupt and another not because the one candidate has acquired a couple million dollars more in the campaigning process?

tonileep said...

I think that money does matter but I don't think that it should matter. Obviously, the more money that a candiate has the more he/she can get their name out to society and campagin more for citizens to hear their concerns, so they have a better chance of getting elected.Also, as everyone else has mentioned, people tend to go with the name they recognize so money isn't necessarily a factor in that case...but it doesn't hurt. Money will always matter in a election.

msenk said...

Money is very important when it comes to being a canidate but I will agree with most others and say that it should not matter. A poll was done by national geographic and the findings revealed that only half could identify New York state on a map. This may appear to be off topic but when you look at how detached people are from life and the only thing they do is work and watch tv the canidate with the most tv advertisements will win. I think this is sad and that the American public should educatate them selves and log onto the gurdian uk or the new york times and educatate themselves. Furthermore they should also find where New York State is.