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What a $3 Million Campaign Donation Buys

In Georgia today, a recording of the Lt. Governor (who presided over the state senate) and GOP primary candidate for Governor shows us how the sausage is made. He is caught on audio admitting to a former rival that he supported bad policy to prevent a 3 million dollar donation in support of another potential rival’s campaign. You can read more (article link) or hear the audio yourself (audio link).

But my headline isn’t quite right — the $3mm never got donated. The unnamed donor got their way with the threat of a $3mm donation — they didn’t have to spend a penny.

That is the power of money in American elections today. It is not the directly given money — it’s the threat to fund a competitor. It’s the ability to nurture ideas that may change the way campaigns run. It’s the ability to support your own network of political professionals and talent, so that you change the conversation in a party.

It’s not about the money itself — the money casts a huge shadow — it has gravitation. It pulls people to you, and causes people to align themselves to your views in the hope of getting a taste of the money you have (or at least not being on the wrong end of your spending). Campaign finance reform will not solve the problem of money in politics — money has always influenced politics and power — this story is a reminder that it doesn’t even take billions for money to make a difference.