Leibee: Don’t support politicians who buy elections

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

If you open the website of any remaining Democratic political candidate, you are greeted by a request for a donation. Candidates like Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard are all asking for money. They need donations to be able to walk up onto those debate stages, and they need donations to stay in the race.

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The current exception to this is Mike Bloomberg. If you open his website, there is not an option to donate to his campaign even if you wanted to. Bloomberg’s aides say he has never accepted a political contribution, and he will never accept one. The aides said Bloomberg will even go as far as not accepting the grand $400,000 a year salary if he were elected president. He says he “cannot be bought.”

No one can buy Bloomberg, but he can buy anything. Being a billionaire is essentially a fast pass to any political office. In fact, he is the richest person to ever run for president in United States history.

According to NBC News in 2019, Bloomberg’s team reserved $30 million for television ads just 10 weeks before the Iowa primary. While other candidates start raising money months and even years in advance, any billionaire can announce their candidacy weeks before and advertise themselves to the top.

Looking at TV ad spending between Nov. 25 and Dec. 3, Tom Steyer spent the most after Bloomberg, but he spent only $1.2 million. Every other candidate spent even less. For every dollar Warren spent on TV ads, Bloomberg spent about $150. Bloomberg isn’t just spending a little bit more. He has spent 1,200% more on Facebook ads than Sanders since Jan. 1.

Billionaires can buy their way out of their mistakes, never being held accountable because it is true that if you have enough money, your mistakes tend to disappear.”

Just look at The Collegian’s website. He is the only candidate with his ad running across the top. Open page three of The Collegian from yesterday’s print edition, and you will see his full-page ad. A full-page ad for Bloomberg in The Collegian is $380, plus or minus some for any discount he may have received for also advertising on the website. He ran his ad twice, making it around $760 for him to advertise in print alone at one university. 

There are 1,626 public colleges in the United States. If we assumed that every public college went off a similar pricing scale, that would be over $1 million for print ads alone just at universities. For other candidates, that kind of advertising is not financially feasible. 

Yes, every candidate has money. However, there is Bloomberg’s money, and there is every other Democratic candidate’s money. This infographic is a frightening and revealing visual of what Bloomberg’s wealth looks like compared to the other Democratic candidates. Overall, Bloomberg will not run out of money for this election. If he loses this one, he could likely pay for himself to run for every single presidential election until he wins. 

Every other Democratic candidate is at least partially relying on their success in debates to encourage supporters to donate to their campaign. Prior to the Democratic debate in Las Vegas on Feb. 19, Warren announced that she was trying to raise $7 million by the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 22. Her success in the debate helped raise enough money for her campaign to continue.

Bloomberg did not do well in the Feb. 19 debate, but he has enough money that it doesn’t matter. Every candidate came after him for his wealth and how out of touch he is with the American people. The problem with billionaires buying their way through elections isn’t just the unfair advantage, but that billionaires generally do not understand the issues and needs of the working class.

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Sanders said it best at the debate, stating, “Maybe it’s time for the working class in this country to get a little bit of power in Washington, rather than your billionaire campaign.” Billionaires can do everything wrong in a campaign and still stay. Billionaires can buy their way out of their mistakes, never being held accountable because it is true that if you have enough money, your mistakes tend to disappear. 

However, if a candidate like Warren was accused of hiding tax returns, implementing racist policies and harassing women the way Bloomberg was, their campaign would be over. 

The reason it’s important to acknowledge that billionaires have so much power in elections is because we don’t want to be fooled into thinking that people like Bloomberg are in the race because people genuinely support him. Without his money, where would he be? 

Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.