11/14/2017

Money In Politics Apparently Isn't So Bad When Democrats Win

A. Barton Hinkle, Reason

When Democrats spend more and win, the campaign finance advantage doesn't come up as often.

Political experts have cited many reasons for Democrat Ralph Northam's huge win in Tuesday's elections. Credit has gone to the state's changing demographics. And to high voter turnout. And to loathing for Donald Trump, which helped drive turnout. Some on the right blamed Republican Ed Gillespie not being Trumpian enough.

One explanation was conspicuous by its absence, however: money.

In the closing weeks of the campaign, Northam enjoyed a 2-1 advantage in financing: He went into October with $5.7 million in his pocket, compared to Gillespie's $2.5 million. By the time the polls closed, Northam had spent $32 million to Gillespie's $23 million.

Northam also got a lot of help. The League of Conservation Voters spent more than $1 million to help him out. Planned Parenthood's Virginia affiliate kicked in $3 million. Environmentalist Tom Steyer threw in another $2 million, Michael Bloomberg's gun control group added more than $1 million, a group affiliated with Barack Obama added $1 million more, and so on. Why hasn't this "outside money" been cited as a factor in the race—or as proof that "money buys elections"?

One possible answer: Gillespie had plenty of help, too. The NRA bought more than $1 million in TV ads for him. Americans for Prosperity contributed more than $750,000. What's more, campaign financing for the lieutenant governor and attorney general races was far more symmetrical.

Besides: Northam's victory did not occur in isolation. Democrats practically ran the table in contests for the House of Delegates.

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