Record-breaking amounts of money were spent this year vying for seats in the mid-terms here in California. Meg Whitman reportedly spent $160 million of her own money--or roughly $42 per vote--to not win the California governorship. Carly Fiorina spent $5.5 million of her own money (along with more than $10 million in donations and $4.8 from the Republicans) to launch an unsuccessful challenge to Barbara Boxer's Senate seat. Add Linda McMahon's unsuccessful run for Chris Dodd's seat in Connecticut and you have an astounding $217 million spent to not win an election. That's a hell of a lot of money . Gail Sheehy looks at what could have been done with that money instead:
Instead of laying out a combined $217 million to run for office, Whitman, Fiorina, and McMahon could have saved America’s commuters some serious cash. They could have footed the toll bill for half of the 52.1 million vehicles that cross the George Washington Bridge yearly, or one-third of the 102.2 million vehicles that cross the Bay Bridge.
Whitman’s spending could have bought full tuition for 23,553 California residents at the University of California-Berkeley, which would almost double current undergraduate enrollment. She could have made 95,764 connections for at-risk youth through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles. Or, if she wanted to be known as the Savior of San Jose, she could have wiped out the megalopolis’ budget deficit twice over.
Fiorina('s) [..] total campaign spending could have doubled the total assets of Goodwill of Southern California. It could have fully funded Pajaro Valley Unified School District for a year, saving the schools’ sports programs. Or, if Fiorina wanted to befriend folks closer to her mansion in Northern California, she could have increased the budget eight-fold of Raphael House, which provides low-income family services and shelter in San Francisco. Maybe she would have earned more headlines if she’d used her campaign budget to go global and purchase one million bed nets to combat malaria in Africa or provide micro-loans to more than 350,000 small businesses in South Africa, most of them to poor women.
McMahon, who laid out $41 million during her run for senator of Connecticut, and her partner-husband had amassed a net worth estimated at at least $1.1 billion as of 10 years ago. Each of the 498,306 votes cast in her favor cost $84.08. That would have covered a full year’s worth of salary and benefits for 802 state employees facing furloughs because of the state’s budget shortfall. It could have provided heating assistance to Connecticut families in need for seven years. It could have paid for 15 million school lunches across the whole country, or paid for two years of enhanced security for our troops in Iraq.
The numbers we're talking about are hard to wrap your brain around...and its expenditure hardly seems like fiscal responsibility (nor does the spending on the Democratic side). It's clear we need to re-prioritize the way we run elections, especially in a post-Citizens United country, because I promise you these numbers will look like a pittance compared to the amounts spent for 2012's election.
The only real answer is to publicly finance elections. No one can talk about fiscal responsibility or curtailing unnecessary government spending until we do.