Hilary, Barack and the $100 Million Ante

Hilary declared her intention to run for president on Saturday, and a lead article in Sunday’s New York Times focused on the fact that Hilary and Obama are each attempting to raise about $75 million — this year alone. An article in today’s paper goes further, telling us that Hilary has decided to skip public financing altogether, thus raising the ante further. Michael E. Toner, chairman of the Federal Election Commission, put it this way, “We are looking at a $100 million entry fee.”

Running for office doesn’t really mean connecting with your constituents, fashioning brilliant policy and building a consensus for it. It means fundraising: creating a war chest that will primarily be used to buy our favorite commodity — television airtime. Hilary’s big advantage is her history in Washington and her access to the Democratic Party fundraising machine.

So here are a few statistics to ponder, picked up from the National Conference for Media Reform:

  • The 2006 election, where no presidential contest was involved, cost $3 billion nationwide. $2 billion was spent on TV and radio ads.
  • Much of that money went to a few large media companies who consistently resist public financing for elections.
  • 65% of the American public says that their primary news source is local TV news.
  • Local TV carries almost no election coverage, and when it does, almost no policy information.
  • The primary source of information about candidates in America comes from 30-second spots, which, almost by necessity, offer distorted information.

Now I ask you — is this the best way we can figure out to select our leadership?

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