Ironically, the economic crisis that has ruined so many small fortunes may boost the political prospects of those with large fortunes. According to CQ’s Rachel Kapochunas, the 2010 campaign cycle could be a big year for self-funded candidates given the tough fundraising climate:
In the previous election cycle, at least 18 House and eight Senate candidates loaned their campaigns more than $1 million in personal funds, according to CQ Moneyline.
Another 60 candidates loaned their campaigns $350,000 or more. In addition, numerous self-funding candidates identified their personal funds as contributions instead of loans to be repaid.
But the previous election cycle includes a time during which the forecast for the country’s economic health was less dire than today’s widespread predictions.
Jennifer A. Steen, author of author of “Self-Financed Candidates in Congressional Elections,” said future economic conditions may strongly impact the coming election season.
“People’s willingness to spend money on political activity … is probably going to taper off this year,” Steen said. “I think it should be harder for most candidates to raise money and that makes the relative value of self-financing go up.”
As Kapochunas notes, self-funded candidates don’t actually have that great a track record for winning, but the two parties love them for what they don’t ask from the national fundraising networks. Indeed, self-funders are the ideal candidates to recruit in tough districts: they force the opposition to spend money better spent elsewhere, and they allow the party to target its own resources to the closest races.
Nothing like a fool and his (or her) money to change the odds in a competitive political environment!