Cash Cow Campaigning

With the American election season in full swing, it is impossible for anyone to visit the U.S. without being bombarded by an incessant stream of campaign paraphernalia. The sheer volume of material for this particular election season has been insufferable. Citizens are swamped with political messages via television, radio, newspaper ads, telephone polls, demonstrations, billboards, rallies, T-shirts, social media campaigns, and – worst of all – dreadfully tacky yard signs.

It’s a stark contrast to Austrian political campaigns, where candidates are allotted a certain budget, based on their political party’s representation in Parliament. American candidates look like cowboys in comparison, stampeding through the Wild West and enjoying a fat campaign wallet, thanks to lenient laws on campaign funding.

For example, each national party committee may give up to $5,000 directly to its presidential candidate, but is not limited on  spending for the respective committee’s own projects, which include – you guessed it – its chosen presidential candidate’s campaign.

The candidates themselves can also raise – and spend – astounding amounts through political action committees. While Republican contender Mitt Romney’s team has spent $530.7 million so far, President Barack Obama’s has outpaced him at $615.6 million – with the president’s personal campaign fund forking over nearly $84 million in August alone. The president, as of 31 Aug., had a reserve (cash on hand) of $130 million; Romney had $191 million.

So while Austrian candidates pass out fliers and slap up political posters, any additional spending is deemed corrupt. But the Americans act like they’re in a strip club, just throwing money around.

The U.S., in fact, is not a strip club. It is a nation deeply in debt, with underpaid workers on strike, an infrastructure in collapse, and corrupt financiers steering the nation toward another recession.

But even if American political candidates have deeper financial resources and enjoy more flexible regulations, perhaps they should take note of their democratic counterparts and tone it down.

Throwing around money turns campaigning into a financial arms race, which, as we have seen, can bring democracy to its knees.

– JK

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