Who said big money buys elections?
A standard liberal canard is “Get big money out of politics.” This is one of Bernie Sander’s big campaign issues. He bemoans the fact that, “a handful of very wealthy people and special interests will determine who gets elected or who does not get elected.”
Not to be outdone, and without a touch of irony, Hillary Clinton jumps on the same bandwagon; “We have to end the flood of secret, unaccountable money that is distorting our elections, corrupting our political system and drowning out the voices of too many everyday Americans.”
Let’s see how this premise worked out this week in New Hampshire. Did big money buy the election for the winning candidates? Hardly.
Jeb Bush spent $34 million from his campaign and super PAC on New Hampshire ads finishing in fourth place with 11 percent of the vote. This translates to $1086 per vote.
Chris Christie, the second biggest spender at $15 million, or $691 per vote, wound up in 6th place. Marco Rubio didn’t do much better, spending $17 million, or $556 per vote for his 5th place finish.
What about those candidates following Bernie and Hillary’s admonition to “get the big money out of politics”? New Hampshire winner Donald Trump spent $3 million, or $31 per vote and even more frugal Ted Cruz, finishing in third place, spent only $400 thousand, or $11 per vote.
The Democrat candidates, while spending less than Bush and Christie, spent far more than Trump or Cruz. Bernie Sanders spent $9 million, or $60 per vote and won 60 percent of the vote. Hillary Clinton spent $5 million, or $52 per vote for only 38 percent of the vote.
Those numbers are falsely low however as the two Democrat candidates each received far more votes than any of the Republican candidates who were splitting their votes among 8 candidates. More votes received means less spent per vote. If Bernie or Hillary spent what they actually spent and received the same number of votes as Jeb Bush, 31,309 votes, they would have spent $290 and $156 per vote, respectively.
Several weeks ago in Iowa, Jeb Bush didn’t find any bargains, spending $5200 for each vote he received. Compare that to first place Ted Cruz at $700 per vote, second place Donald Trump at $300 per vote, and third place Marco Rubio at $600 per vote, all three spending far less per vote than sixth place finisher Jeb Bush.
If money determines elections, as Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton claim, then Jeb Bush would be running the table, measuring drapes for the White House. Instead he is living and breathing proof that money doesn’t always trump issues and personality.
Even big media bemoans big money in politics. The NY Times worries that, “Money rules presidential politics like never before.” Yet who benefits from political spending? Big media of course as most of the money is spent on ad buys - television, radio, and newspapers.
While it makes for good populist rhetoric to bash big money and political influence, whether Citizens United or the Koch Brothers, the reality is that there is more to winning elections than simply money. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz clearly demonstrated this in the first two primaries of the 2016 election season.
Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon, radio personality, and writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.