As the noted philosopher and rock 'n' roll irritant David Lee Roth once said, "Money can't buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it."
I often think of his sage words as I watch the early days of the 2012 political campaigns. For the phrase "buy you a yacht," simply substitute "buy you an election." Then behold the havoc wrought by Citizens United and other court decisions that have unleashed a mudslide of corporate cash into our electoral system, much of it anonymous, hurling the average citizen out of the democratic equation.
An estimated $40 million will be spent in those nine Wisconsin state Senate recall elections -- most of it from outside, third-party interest groups and twice what was spent last year on all 116 of the state’s legislative races. Most believe President Obama will raise a billion dollars or even more for his reelection bid; enough, as NPR’s Peter Overby observed, to buy up all the TV ads on the Super Bowl -- four times.
The Republican nominee may also raise and spend a billion. If it turns out to be former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, buying that electoral yacht will be a tad easier than for others. Back in 2007, the New York Times estimated his worth at nearly $350 million, and he plowed a reported $44.5 million of his own money into his 2008 presidential campaign.