The real problem for Republicans: Too much money

May 4, 2015

Left to right: Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz

Republicans have a problem for 2016: Too much money.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush expects to raise $100 million by the end of this month. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas raised $31 million in one week. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida pulled in $40 million in pledges. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker expects to raise $25 million by the end of June. As many as 14 other potential Republican candidates have also been busy raking in the dough.

So have Democrats Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, though the Democratic race does not look as competitive as the GOP contest.

In previous races, candidates who didn’t do well in the early primaries would see their fund raising dry up. That would force them to drop out of the race. In 2016, however, money flowing in from billionaire supporters will keep dead candidates alive.


Las Vegas Sands Corporation Chairman and Chief Executive Sheldon Adelson at a news conference in Tokyo, February 24, 2014. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

Primaries are a killing field. Their purpose is to kill nonviable contenders and get their bodies off the field as quickly as possible. Then the party can close ranks around the winner. But if the dying candidates still have money, they can continue to campaign, harass the front-runner, collect votes and win delegates. Cash infusions from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, for example, revived the 2012 campaign of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Last month, Republican candidates flocked to Adelson’s Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to speak to the Republican Jewish Coalition. The press dubbed the event “the Adelson primary.”

The Republican National Committee is doing everything it can to shorten the process. Imposing a tighter campaign schedule, it hopes to have a decision by the end of March. The committee is also limiting the number of debates in order to avoid giving uncompetitive candidates a platform. Imagine 17 candidates debating! Republican leaders want to avoid what happened to Mitt Romney in 2012. Competitors refused to quit, and Romney was unable to claim a majority of delegates until May 29.

In 2008, however, it didn’t hurt the Democrats to have Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama slug it out until the bitter end. Obama didn’t claim victory until June 4. In that race, however, most Democrats would have been happy with either candidate as the party’s nominee. The race made Obama look stronger because he had defeated the formidable Clinton machine. And Clinton won more praise than criticism for sticking it out until the end. It made her look like a fighter.

Republican presidential candidates Santorum, Romney, Gingrich and Paul participate in the Republican presidential candidates debate in Tampa

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) former Senator Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Representative Ron Paul debate in Tampa, Florida, January 23, 2012. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The problem for Republicans next year is that the divisions in the party are real, and they are deep. All those candidates, backed by all that money, will do everything they can to expose the divisions. You’ve got your establishment Republicans (Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie), your libertarian ones (Kentucky Senator Rand Paul), your religious rightists (former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee), your Tea Party champions (Cruz,  Walker and former Texas Governor Rick Perry) and your neo-conservatives (Rubio, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina).

The longer the feuding goes on, the more likely the eventual nominee will say something stupid. Like Romney in a 2012 primary debate saying his solution to the immigration problem would be for illegal immigrants to “self-deport.”


David (L) and Charles Koch. Courtesy of Koch Industries

Where is all the money coming from? It’s not the “one percent” — it’s the top one percent of the one percent. The billionaires who have been making out like bandits while working Americans are falling further and further behind. Graham told New Hampshire voters, “What I worry about is that we are turning campaigns over to about 100 people in this country, and they are going to be able to advocate their cause at the expense of your cause.”

Case in point: Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who say they are prepared to spend nearly a billion dollars to elect a Republican. So far, they’ve narrowed their choice to five candidates (Cruz, Walker, Bush, Rubio and Paul).

Gingrich said recently that wealthy donors could decide, “This year, instead of buying a new yacht, I’m going to spend $70 million on a candidate.”

Yachts, candidates — all playthings for the super-rich.

Police form a line after arresting demonstrators on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building, on the anniversary of the Citizens United decision, in Washington

Police form a line after arresting demonstrators on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, on the anniversary of the Citizens United decision, in Washington, January 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Who opened the floodgates? The U.S. Supreme Court, of course, in its bone-headed 2010 decision allowing unlimited contributions to “independent” spending committees. So far this year, 15 potential candidates have formed their own spending committees (super PACs) in preparation for their campaigns. We’re seeing a cross-country orgy of fund raising even before the candidates declare. As of mid-April, Bush had spoken at 47 fund-raising events for his Right to Rise super PAC.

Even though a super PAC is not allowed to coordinate strategy with a campaign, the ties between them are getting closer and closer. Right to Rise is led by consultant Mike Murphy, who had been expected to run the Bush campaign.

Donors are catching on. “There’s no question that donors are much more comfortable with super PACs,” a strategist running Perry’s Opportunity and Freedom PAC told the Washington Post. Once a candidate officially gets into the race, he or she is barred by law from raising unlimited sums. That’s why we’re seeing such fund- raising frenzy now. Elected federal officials are not allowed to raise unlimited money, either. That’s why the three Republicans (Cruz, Paul and Rubio) who entered the race first are all senators.

Total spending in the 2016 presidential race is likely to hit $5 billion. That’s almost twice as much as 2012. How eye-popping is that? Well, the American Gaming Association has estimated how much money Americans bet on this year’s March Madness basketball tournament. The total wagered: $9 billion.


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Haha. Money well wasted. I hope Rick Santorum costs his friends a billion dollars. Maybe Sarah Palin can rack up some more bills too :)

The more they waste, the more we extract money from the ultra-wealthy donors and put it back into the economy. The public is still majority democrat, will be for 40 more years after the bush/cheney lessons.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Honestly, on either side, there is not a single candidate that isn’t repulsive, insufferable or downright crooked. Barring a miracle, this is the weakest field since ’88 Bush v Dukakis, and we all know how that ended – with war and a deep recession. I’m not exactly an Obama-lover, but frankly I think Americans will look back fondly at his regime (though his last eight months have been utterly cringe-worthy domestically – STOP CITING THE DEBUNKED WAGE-GAP NONSENSE and other gender BS!!!) and pine for the good old days of growth and relative peace.

The bottom line: there is no Liberal-left anymore, only hyper-PC progressive authoritarian lunatics. And the Tea Party (unfortunately) is the response. The vast majority of us that sat comfortably in the middle – leaning one way or the other mind you – are treated like a disdained minority and have little voice. When the system caters only to special interest then politics is broken and you’ll end up with authoritarian govt trying to control everything (because most of us are NOT a special interest group). The real political divide in America is not left/right anymore, it’s libertarian and authoritarian… try to vote through that lens and don’t vote for – from either wing – for the authoritarians.

Posted by DeckHero14 | Report as abusive

“Case in point: Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who say they are prepared to spend nearly a billion dollars to elect a Republican. So far, they’ve narrowed their choice to five candidates (Cruz, Walker, Bush, Rubio and Paul).”

So they think they can BUY the election? This just tells me the five people NOT to support.

Posted by SnazzyO | Report as abusive

Perhaps the problem is not just that the Republicans have so many really bad candidates, but is also that they don’t have any good candidates running. The huge influence of billionaires tying to buy the election for their candidate not only results in numerous candidates, but discourages any potential good candidate who would want to run for president without being bought and paid for by under the table money before the voting begins.

The Republicans have only themselves to blame for Citizens United, which was a purely partisan decision by the Republican justices on the Supreme Court.

Posted by QuietThinker | Report as abusive

+1 to AlkalineState, DeckHero and QuietThinker!
As a former Republican, I cringe almost to death when I look at the naked racism of their most vocal mouthpieces. People may not like Obama, but he’s not the Antichrist and he isn’t responsible for most of the problems in America today. Congress claims that credit, something they want everyone to ignore or forget.
Jeb Bush — another Bush? Really? Yagotta be kidding me…
Ted Cruz — frankenstein candidate, neo-McCarthyist table-flipping megalomaniac.
Scott Walker — not totally mired in controversy, other than being the Union’s antichrist.
Rand Paul — too decent, reasonable, honest, and/or libertarian-leaning to be an acceptable Republican candidate.
Hillary Clinton — Has quite a war machine. But won’t get my vote. Too many questions of honesty and integrity going all the way back to the 1980s.
– Maybe the Dems should run John Kerry again. He seems to be doing a bang-up job as Secretary of State.

Posted by bearvarine | Report as abusive

It is sad state of affairs in this country. The Ultra right/left need to be reigned in yet with all this money, they just buy off whomever and we get the same garbage.

Posted by Mishrac44 | Report as abusive

The parties are supposed to use the primaries as a vetting process to eliminate those unsuitable for the job. I see multitudes who qualify. System, please work.

Posted by JimTheDiver | Report as abusive

Project Salton Sea may have to wait for 2017 and the Mejorda pollution will devastate crops in Kansas-Texas-Oklahoma-Arkansa- Wisconsin and other bread State while the Republicans use up 1.8 Trillion of the Countries money and law suits abound.I might add these polluted factories were financed by the people funding the Republicans and gloating over the slave wages they paid the Mexicans for a two year job and centuries of pollution.

Posted by LnRANGER | Report as abusive

Yes, the drawn-out primary process is a concern, and something the Republican candidates would be wise to work together to address in the interest of the party. However, they will need all that money to take on the Clinton Foundation warchest that Hillary has amassed from Russia and other places.

This comes on a day when the big news is of Obama attacking Elizabeth Warren. Seemingly, the rift in Democrats is no different than that in Republicans. And unquestionably, very few are fired up about having Hillary take the reins.

Posted by SuePachunk | Report as abusive

“The public is still majority democrat, will be for 40 more years after the bush/cheney lessons.”

Did you tune out the entire last election? Even with Obama’s efforts to stack the deck with illegal immigrant voters, the tide is turning.

Posted by SuePachunk | Report as abusive