Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Can You Make Money Running for President? Yup.

Why are 20 people running for the Democratic nomination?   Well, it may be in part to make some cash.

Running for President, even when you know you will lose and lose badly, is a new thing.  The last time around, a dozen or so Republicans took a stab at it, until the most unlikely of them all took the lead.   One by one, the others dropped out, much as many are dropping out from the Democratic race as we speak.

Campaigns are expensive, to be sure - you have to hire staff in all the big primary States and pay people and transportation expenses.  Trump, of course, flew in the face of this convention, by using only thin staffing in each State, and relying on his highly publicized mega-rallies to generate free publicity.  Saying and Twittering outlandish things also ensured his name was constantly in the press - and the press cooperated by writing article after article about him.  It was good click-bait - too good to pass up!  As they say in Hollywood, "there is no such thing as bad publicity" and maybe his constituents were refreshed to find a candidate who wasn't playing it safe and constantly apologizing.

Just a theory of mine - maybe some Democrats can try this sometime, instead of apologies and promises of free money.   It just might work!

(And maybe Trump, who has a star on the "walk of fame" in Hollywood, knows how to work the system.  Perhaps it was he, not Reagan, who was our first Hollywood President.  Just a thought.)

As it turns out, however, you can keep any leftover money from your campaign, although you may be limited in how you use it.   However, if you are in politics, that cash can come in awfully handy.

For example, say you are Kamala Harris, and are a United States Senator. You probably won't get the nod for the Democratic nomination at this point, so you might as well hoard as much cash as you can.  You can then use this for your next Senate campaign, which puts you millions ahead of your next competitor.

Or, you can donate this money to local campaigns in your State, for example.  This comes in really handy in solidifying your power base.  If all the local pols are beholden to you for that campaign cash, they won't rock the boat and support a primary challenger - or become one themselves.

It is, in short, a great way to amass and keep power.

But of course, you can't pay yourself from the campaign coffers.  Or can you?

An ethics complaint is pending against Rep. Rashida Tlaib for paying herself $4,000 a month in "salary" while campaigning for office.   Some are arguing that this is normal procedure for any candidate, who has to give up their job or cut back on their work hours, in order to campaign full-time.  Of course, this raises the question, how much can you pay yourself?  Tlaib didn't take too much money - the equivalent of $36,000 a year - hardly Clintonesque numbers.   But who is to say what is a "reasonable amount" of candidate salary?

And for that matter, what about your friends?  Kamala Harris is staying in the race, even though she has a snowball's chance in hell of getting the nomination at this point.  But on the payroll of her doomed Presidential bid are a lot of people who have worked for her in the past on her Senate campaign - and will no doubt work for her in the future on her re-election.  Again, what a great way to build and maintain a power base, as well as maintain an entourage of hangers-on who can advise you in your political career.   From her point of view, there is no point in "dropping out" of the race, until it starts costing real money.  So long as the donor checks come in, you might as well keep your "Open for Business" sign up.

* * *

But speaking of Hillary, she and Chelsea were on the NPR today on "Here and Now" promoting their new book.   It was kind of scary how Chelsea sounds so much like her Mom - to the point we didn't know who was speaking.   The moderator mentioned the 2016 election with the notation to Hillary, "...that you LOST." which not doubt raised her hackles.  Sadly, Hillary went on to say that Trump was an "illegitimate" President, which I thought was kind of tactless.

The electoral college worked the way the founding fathers intended it to - giving power to those "flyover" States so they are not bullied by population centers on either coast.  Granted, in their day, it was the thinly populated Southern States which were concerned about being outvoted by the North, but the same principle is in effect.  People who say we should abolish the electoral college are dreaming - it ain't going to happen unless those same "flyover" States ratify an amendment to the Constitution.  Guess what?  They aren't about to do that, and give up what little power they have.

If she meant that "Russian Interference" was to blame for her loss, I don't buy that either.  Russia sets up websites and posts comments on blogs and Reddit, to be sure.  But it is Americans who read this stuff and believe it.  And Democrats, who "refuse to dignify" such wild accusations with a rebuttal, leave the impression that maybe some of it is true.  When they act like the "e-mail server" thing was a hot potato, well, you wonder whether there was some there, there.   When you don't campaign at all in several midwestern States and just assume they will vote for you, you have to expect to lose.  Trump didn't win, that is clear - Hillary lost.  It was her election to lose, and she lost it.

And Democrats will continue to lose elections, until one of them actually visits Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, or Pennsylvania, spends some time there, and figures out what people there really want. 

Here's a clue:  It ain't what people in San Francisco, LA, or New York City want.  Until we listen to the whole country, we will keep losing elections - fair and square.