A costly election

A growing trend apparent in recent elections seems to prove that the nomination goes to the one who spends the most money. This year’s Congressional primary clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of this technique.
The DFL U.S. Senate primary was the most expensive in the state’s 142-year history. The victor, Mark Dayton, spent an incredible $5.2 million. Runner-up Mike Ciresi spent $4.6 million, Jerry Janezich raised $363,554 and Rebecca Yanisch collected $1.74 million. Dayton, who is heir to the department store’s family fortune, is worth between $17.7 million and $78 million.
Dayton was able to spend half of his resources on television commercials, while his three other contenders could not spend nearly as much.
His ability to personally fund his campaign with a high maximum spending limit, has allowed him to carry out extraordinary publicity feats — such as his senior citizen bus trips into Canada to purchase inexpensive prescription drugs — that are unusual for most political races. Other candidates might have had intentions to do such philanthropic ventures, but not the means to carry them out.
As personally funding elections becomes more prevalent, how parties elect their candidates will probably change. The DFL endorsement, ideally given to the candidate who most closely represents the party’s ideologies, carry surprisingly little weight these days. DFL-endorsed Janezich came in third, 22 percentage points behind Dayton. The importance of delegates and the sanctity of the endorsement slip away as money becomes more of a deciding factor in elections.
Not to say that Dayton is not a worthy candidate; he does use his personal wealth in a Robin Hood, give-to-the-poor sort of way. It is safe to say, however, that we cannot trust that our candidates win because they are truly worthy. We now have the added insecurity that our elected officials are merely in their positions because they bought the popularity contest.