Monday, August 27, 2012

Electoral College effect on Campaign Finance

Last week, I mentioned the philosophical underpinnings of why we should keep the electoral college. But there is a much more practical reason. The thing that everyone loves to talk about in campaigns and how it is the single largest corrupting force in the world. Money.

Politicians need money to get elected and then stay elected. But only to a point. Once you have filled your campaign coffers so that you can completely saturate the media market, then and only then do you have enough. Money can always buy more billboards, television, radio, internet, and get out the vote operations, but at some point - there really is a diminishing marginal return on these things. Another hundred dollars will not win you any more votes. 

Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama in the money race. By no small amount. Remember how Obama set a record in fundraising in 2008? Partly because of Citizens United ruling and partly because Mitt Romney is Wall Street's guy, for better or for worse, Romney is blowing away that record. Obama has an army of small donors. Romney has an army of large donors. Yet, most political analysts say it does not matter all that much because they hit that point of diminishing marginal return long ago. 

According to RealClearPolitics, the electoral college narrows the number of states in play from 51 (DC gets 3 electoral votes) down to 11 states. Pollster says that number is 7. The Associated Press says a slightly different 7

So what would happen if we removed the electoral college? All people in all 51 states would be back in play once again. Instead of needing enough money to completely saturate 7 to 11 states, now presidential politicians will need enough money to saturate the entire country. That means more, much more, money in politics. 

People thought that our politicians were beholden to corporations before Citizens United. Now that they can make unlimited donations to SuperPACs, it is much more the case than before. Now add in the need to raise billions more because the Electoral College is gone. What does this equal?

This will be a world where politicians will spend no time shaking the hands and kissing the babies of ordinary folks, but a world where they spend all of their time schmoozing billionaires. Is that a world we want to live in?

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