Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Billionaire vs. billionaire

To those who watch election coverage, it has become more and more obvious that the mother's milk of politics is now money beyond our wildest imaginings. Ordinary folk who give money to a candidate have the opportunity to give again and again, but the huge sums needed to run a national campaign are not collected from $25 contributions or even $250 checks. Serious candidates need donors willing to play "My Billionaire Gives More Millions Than Your Billionaire."

Sadly, this world is usually quite private. Most of us knew nothing of the Adelson family before their more than $10 million donation to the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future. Few had heard of Foster Friess, one of Rick Santorum's main money-men, until his jaw-dropping comments about "gals" and "aspirin between the knees."

The one thing we can be pretty certain about is that should their candidate become president, he will take their phone calls immediately. Perhaps they will even become close advisors. It would be great to think this access would be the result of their being persons of great understanding or significant intellect. What is more likely is that these big-time funders will have a request for a friend. It would be hard to say no.

The public, and Santorum, are discovering that when you take the money, you also get the billionaire who may raise some pretty serious questions about the kind of people you listen to. What should really give us pause, however, are the billionaires involved who are more circumspect than Mr. Friess. What does their influence on campaigns mean for the democratic process?

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