A Perfect Storm

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What do you get when you cross a highly competitive slate of Congressional races with a Presidential race? A wooley jumper! Sorry...wrong joke: actually you get a campaign fundraising season sure to dwarf its predecessors in terms of sheer dollars raised and overall number of wealthy donors squeezed dry by a parade of candidates and their fundraising invitations.

 

The Wall Street Journal (full article available only to subscribers) reels off a dizzying array of numbers that point to campaigns even more desperately dependent on the wealthy who can afford to max out their contributions to multiple candidates -- both on the Congressional and Presidential circuit:

 

Seasoned politicos, for their part, have also noticed the difference. "I get a lot of invites, many more than in the past," says Gifford Miller, a former New York City Council speaker.

Concrete data on fund raising to date in 2007 won't be available until mid-April, when candidates are required to file their first-quarter reports with the Federal Election Commission. But campaign staffers say that beyond pressures caused by the early presidential jockeying, what could be a record-setting quarter for money gathering is driven by the ever-steeper cost of elections. And there is always a bit of a frenzied push early in campaigns to establish momentum.

At this stage, then, candidates tend to focus on corralling big-ticket contributors -- who can give campaigns an air of viability as well as cash -- before embarking on the more exhaustive hunt for small donors.

 

And lest you think all this money is directed by ideology, there's this bit near the end of the article on big donors covering their bases with whoever might come to power -- just in case:

People are also giving to multiple candidates as favors to friends and business associates -- and to hedge their bets to make sure they have done something for whoever becomes the general campaign's candidate.

The perpetual campaign cycle that Congress is on means there's no break when they can just do their job of representing people. They have to be raising money -- thousands upon thousands of dollars a week -- if they want a shot at re-election. Meanwhile, at the point in the Presidential contest when the large number of candidates from a variety of idealogical backgrounds could make for a wide-ranging and constructive debate about the direction of the country, the real test of a candidate's mettle is how much they're banking before April 15th. Are these the priorities we look for in our government?