On March 1, The New York Times' editorial board pushed back against the notion that the 2016 election cycle has disproved the influence of money in elections. Contrary to other media outlets that have pointed to the failure of candidates with the backing of well-funded super PACs, The Times argued that mega-donors have simply yet to invest and could have a major impact on the general election.
Gov. Jeb Bush and Gov. Scott Walker are often used as examples to question whether big money has played the overwhelming role some feared it would since the Supreme Court ruled on Citizen's United and to doubt the influence of super PACs on this year's election.
However, the Times' editorial board refutes the idea that money won't make a difference, writing that, "With only two nominees [in the general election] to back, tens of millions more from big donors will come sweeping into the race" and that big donors "like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will come off the sidelines." From The New York Times:
It would be soothing to think that the primary season's bizarre twists and turns have shown the limits of the influence big money can have on the conduct and success of a political campaign. Jeb Bush blew through more than $100 million in campaign and "super PAC" money, and still dropped out early. Remember Scott Walker? Big backers didn't help him. Chris Christie ran out of money about the same time he ran out of mojo. Donald Trump says he's self-financing his campaign, a ploy that also involves leasing his plane and office space to himself.
So what's the problem? The general election.
With only two nominees to back, tens of millions more from big donors will come sweeping into the race. Big Republican backers like the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson will come off the sidelines; other millionaires and billionaires will step up their super PAC giving. The Democratic National Committee just lifted the ban on lobbyist contributions; that means that if Hillary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee, individual lobbyists will be able to contribute more than $300,000 each to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fund-raising committee established in partnership with the national committee. And those maxed-out donors? Come the general election, they'll all be able to kick in another $2,700.
"If you look at the primary you can get the false impression that the super rich are losing," says Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, who has worked for campaign finance reform for three decades. "But all these people are going to double down in the general election."
The result: one winner who most likely will emerge in a position of obligation and dependency on big-money donors. For those who think it's a step toward campaign finance reform that a businessman, who won't release his tax returns, is running his campaign as a quasi-profit-making venture, there's somebody out there who'd like to sell you a Trump University diploma.