Sunday, September 30, 2012
It’s a spreadsheet, a simple computer tool that tells a concise, but nonetheless powerful and eloquent story of how money has screwed up our government.
Since April of 2002 when Congressman Ruppersberger first ran for office through June 30 of this year, he’s raised $2,925,651 from special interest PACs – not including Democrat Party contributions. Why? To make absolutely sure he could buy enough airtime and fund enough other campaign initiatives to win. As it turns out, he didn’t need the money. Not really.
Look at the difference between the money his opponents raised versus what his campaign received. Helen Bentley, in the 2002 campaign, had been in Congress and had money. Take away the $632,654 in non-party PAC money Ruppersberger raised, and the two campaigns would have been on equal financial footing, Ruppersberger’s $1,067,518 versus Bentley’s $1,074,398. Could have been close. Could have come down to what the candidates actually stood for. Wouldn’t that be something? A race with neither candidate having a financial advantage.
In 2004, Ruppersberger raised $460,361 from individual contributions, compared to just $45,214 raised by his opponent. In 2006, it was Ruppersberger’s $445,108 from individuals versus his opponent’s pathetic $8,449 – and still the Congressman couldn’t say “No” to $406,783 in special interest money. And it was the same story in 2008 and 2010 although, in 2010, Ruppersberger’s advantage from individual contributions alone was only, round numbers, a measly 3:1. It didn’t matter. Every year, he took the special interest money.
So far for this election, as of his campaign’s June 30 filing, Congressman Ruppersberger has received $426,443 from individual contributors, but has taken $554,699 from special interests – even though his opponent, Maryland State Senator Nancy Jacobs, has raised only $129,850. (Can you believe I just described $129,850 as “only”? Sign of the times.)
Look at the totals column on the right. Including his first campaign in 2002 against Helen Bentley, Congressman Ruppersberger’s individual contributions have exceeded his opponents’ by more than 2:1, but he still took another $2.9 million from special interests. Why? Once again, to make absolutely certain he couldn’t lose. Heaven forbid he’d have to run on the merits of his record, instead of banking on the impact of dominant airtime.
Back to the money question… So what does this $2.9 million expect in return? Access to Congressman Ruppersberger, access that ordinary voters can’t afford. The $2.9 million is buying access. That’s for certain. To what end is anybody’s guess.