It was said of Andrew Carnegie that he gave money away as quietly as a waiter falling down a steel staircase carrying a tray of tall-stemmed glasses. Not so the sotto voce superrich donors who are spending so much to keep Mitt Romney from declaring himself the winner of the Republican nomination.
With their chosen candidates out front, swinging at each other as they glad-hand from state to state, the multimillionaires and billionaires – a mere million is nowhere near enough to join this exclusive club – keep themselves out of sight, sitting around in a smoke-filled back room playing high-stakes hold ’em for the soul of the GOP. Not literally, of course, though many of them made their fortunes gambling everything on their hunches.
It is the common view, heard nightly around dinner tables of liberal-leaning citizens, that democracy is being bought and sold in front of our noses and that the Founding Fathers – most of whom, by the way, were comfortably well off and happily paid their way into politics – would be spinning in their mausoleums if they knew how the monarchy they defied has been replaced in the brave republic they founded by an aristocracy of the super-wealthy they never could have imagined.
Yet recent evidence suggests that Citizens United and related relaxations on campaign spending have done little more than allow the ultrarich to waste their money. Consider A. Jerrold Perenchio, the former CEO of the Univision TV network, who sank $2.1 million into the short-lived bid by Jon Huntsman Jr. to storm the White House. Perenchio’s losses match those of Jon Huntsman Sr., father of Jr., who gave a total of $2.2 million in 10 easy payments to bolster his son’s forlorn ambitions. Money can’t buy you love, perhaps, but in the Huntsman family it has surely bought eternal devotion.
The same sense of loss, both political and financial, could be said of Harold Simmons, the Texan chemicals and metals magnate, who poured $1.1 million into Rick Perry and his five-point – or was that four-point – plan for shrinking the federal government. Oops. But Simmons is not done. He made an each-way bet, backing not just the forgetful Perry but Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, too.