No, Hillary, Bernie, Millionaires Aren't Buying Elections - 2016 Proves It
On Saturday, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will announce her plan to introduce a campaign finance amendment in her first 30 days as president, CNN reported. Her amendment would reverse the freedom of speech victory in Citizens United v. FEC, as she and Bernie Sanders have each promised numerous times.
There's just one big problem with this -- millionaires and billionaires cannot and do not buy elections, and 2016 is the prime example of that.
First, let's talk about Sanders' and Clinton's declarations. When the Vermont senator endorsed Clinton, he mentioned "the disastrous Citizens United decision, a decision which is allowing billionaires to buy elections and is undermining our democracy." He repeated this claim in a New York Times op-ed, saying, "Wall Street and billionaires, through their 'super PACs,' are able to buy elections."
In advance of Saturday's announcement from Clinton, an aide leaked that her proposal would allow "Americans to establish common sense rules to protect against the undue influence of billionaires and special interests and to restore the role of average voters in elections."
If billionaires are indeed controlling elections, they're not exactly doing a bang up job. Let's take a look at the "super PACs" Sanders so mistrusts, and what they did in the 2016 election so far.
The damage from 2016
The biggest super PAC of the 2016 cycle was Right to Rise USA, according to the campaign finance site Open Secrets. This super PAC raised $121 million, and spend $86 million in the 2016 cycle. So it must have supported Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, right? No. It supported former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
Yes, the same Jeb Bush who failed to win a single state. The Bush who won 4 pledged delegates, and a whopping 0.92 percent of the vote overall. The same Bush who received 286,634 votes -- not exactly anywhere close to Trump's 14 million (45 percent of the vote), or even in the ball park of Ted Cruz's 7.8 million (25 percent of the vote).
Ok, so the first one was a huge bust. How about the second? That would be Conservative Solutions PAC, which raised $60 million and spent $55 million. Surely that was a Trump PAC, right?
Nope again. That PAC backed Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who did quite a bit better than Bush (despite Bush spending heavily on attack ads against him!). Rubio won three states, got 11 percent of the vote, and 173 delegates. That's still small potatoes compared to Cruz and Trump, however. Cruz won more than double Rubio's votes, states, and delegates.
In third place in terms of candidate PACs is Clinton's Priorities USA Action, which raised $76 million and spent $36 million. Even that couldn't give the former secretary of State a free pass to the Democratic nomination. The huge populist wave also known as "Bernie Sanders" came far closer to stopping her than ever anticipated, despite his relative lack of campaign finance.
To be fair, if all the pro-Cruz PACs are counted as one, they would hit fourth place behind Bush, Rubio, and Clinton. The Texas senator's "dark money" groups raised a combined $55 million and spent a total of $26 million. If billionaires controlled politics, you would expect Cruz to have finished a distant third place, rather than a close second.
Next Page: So how much did Trump's super PACs spend?