The Center for Competitive Politics studied political spending in the 2016 election cycle, concluding that the data demonstrates strongly -- yet again -- that spending money does not buy electoral victory:
“The idea that money buys elections was disproven again last night by Donald Trump,” said CCP President David Keating. “Trump and his allies were outspent by huge margins. Money allows candidates and groups to speak. Voters decide based on their beliefs. It’s time to put aside the discredited idea that money buys votes. Instead, we should focus on expanding First Amendment freedoms for all Americans.”
Some political spending facts from CCP about last night’s election:
- Clinton outspent Trump more than 2 to 1.
- Pro-Clinton ads outnumbered pro-Trump ads 3 to 1.
- Independent groups supporting Clinton outspent independent groups supporting Trump 3 to 1.
- In the top states in terms of ads run (FL, OH, NC, PA, NV, IA), Clinton supporters ran over 3 times more ads. She lost 5 of these 6 states.
- The three biggest super PAC spenders supporting Presidential candidates (Clinton, Bush, and Rubio) spent $275 million on losing efforts – nearly 1/4 of all super PAC spending.
Taken together, what do these facts mean? The lesson is clear: political spending is an avenue for speech – it is necessary to buy political ads, to get a candidate’s message out, and pay for the numerous costs of a campaign, among other things. But despite many claims to the contrary, elections are not “bought” by millionaires and billionaires – they are decided by voters who either buy a candidate’s message or do not.
In the coming weeks and months, there will be many lessons to take away from Trump’s upset victory, but one should surely be that, despite many claims by advocates of greater speech regulation, wealthy individuals and the so-called “special interests” do not and cannot use money to decide the outcomes of elections.
For all of the liberal handwringing over individuals, corporations, PACs, and organizations exercising their First Amendment right to spend money to communicate a political message, the voters can, and do, make decisions without falling victim to the "corruption" of political spending. That is why the First Amendment exists--to protect the people against government officials who would like to decide what they hear and say.