Saturday, December 13, 2008

Deal, Schmeal: Half Million Dollars Spent in County Commission Races

The Enquirer's Politics Extra Blog lists the amounts spent in the 2008 HamCo races. Perhaps most surprising is the amounts raised and spent by Todd Portune and Greg Hartmann, who each ran without an "endorsed" opponent.

Greg Hartmann spent over $322,000 (on contributions of over $221,000) in his campaign against independent* candidate Chris Dole, who spent a little over $10,000 (on $2,500 in contributions). Todd Portune spent almost $243,000 (receiving contributions of over $146,000) to defeat unendorsed Republican Ed Rothenberg, who loaned his campaign $20,000 and received no contributions.

In the County Recorder race, Democrat Wayne Coates spent over $12,000 (on contributions of over $10,000) to defeat incumbent Republican Rebecca Groppe, who spent $over $133,000 (contributions of $108,000).

In the Clerk of Courts race, Republican Patricia Clancy spent $252,000 (contributions of over $190,000) to defeat Democrat Martha Good, who spent just under $33,000 (contributions of over $24,000).

In the County Treasurer's race, Republican incumbent Rob Goering spent over $42,000 (contributions of $27,000) to fend off Democratic challenger Steve Brinker, who spent a little over $12,000 after receiving just a little less than that in contributions.

Even the unopposed candidates got into the action. Republican Prosecutor Joe Deters raised no money, but spent over $47,000. Republican Sheriff Simon Leis raised $5,000 and spent $12,000. And Democratic Coroner O'Dell Owens raised over $25,000, but spent just over $1,000.

What do we learn? First, the HamCo GOP continues to enjoy a significant fundraising advantage over the HCDP. Second, it doesn't always matter. And third, people clearly think they get something from campaign contributions, as they're willing to give to candidates (of both parties) who face no opposition. One wonders whether the county GOP leadership will be wringing its hands over county offices being "for sale."

Fundraising plays too large a role in the American political process. I was disturbed by Obama's fundraising machine (he has singlehandedly destroyed the public financing system), and pay-to-play is all too common (see United States v. Blagojevich, as well as, on a much smaller, less criminal scale, this recent episode locally). I'm not sure what the solution is, or whether in a capitalist democracy, there is one.

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*Dole is a Democrat, but ran without the party's endorsement or nomination. He did not appear on the ballot as a Democratic candidate. Rothenberg, though unendorsed, appeared on the ballot as a Republican.

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