Money: It takes lots of it to run a presidential campaign. "Hopefully we'll have a few memorable moments during the Iowa debate and have a good showing in the straw poll," an advisor to one of the low-profile candidates told me last week. That was the key to keeping this candidate's fund-raising spigots flowing and maintaining his viability in the 2012 race. "We just need to keep hitting singles," the advisor said. But there are others who are slamming home runs. Should we be concerned?
Mitt Romney is the reigning Republican Bambino of political fund-raising. The Super PAC backing him, Restore our Future, had $12,209,371 on hand as of the June 30 quarterly filing date. That's in addition to the $12,715,495 Romney's campaign had in the bank. Now that Rick Perry has announced he's in the race, keep an eye on the Super PAC Make Us Great Again. Perry and friends are master fund-raisers, pulling in $104 million for his three gubernatorial races in Texas. Priorities USA, a Super PAC supporting President Obama, reported having $1,824,764 on hand while the Obama campaign revealed its holdings of $37,110,346 as of June 30. And Karl Rove's American Crossroads Super PAC is sitting on the sidelines with $3,281,349 waiting to back the eventual Republican nominee. In the meantime, American Crossroads has been buying ads criticizing President Obama.
By the way, a Super PAC is a political action committee that can "raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash from individuals, corporations, and unions with the sole purpose of running advertisements in support of specific candidates" as long as it doesn't give money directly to candidates or coordinates its efforts with campaign staff. Super PACs came about in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
Should we be concerned about the frothy brew of cash and politics? Yes, for a couple of reasons! First, cash represents free speech. It costs money to say what candidates want to say on the airwaves. We Americans value our free speech and we should protect it and allow the cash to flow. But we should also be concerned about what that cash will buy-like big favors with politicians. I'd rather remain vigilant and risk politicians going wayward than limiting political speech.
And what about the candidates hitting singles? Are they inhibited by their lack of cash? Sure, but if they hit enough singles they might just stay in the game long enough to get a high fastball they can knock out of the park. This is America and anything is possible as long as we protect our rights to free speech.