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How the Republican Primary Proves Money Still Can Buy You an Election

There has been this idea floating around for a few weeks that Romney’s inability to trounce his opponents despite vastly outspending them proves money can’t buy elections.  Some Republicans have been running with this to try and make the point that this proves that concerns over Citizens United are overblown.  I’d like to take a minute to show why that is nonsense.

The easiest way to make this point is by way of example, so here is one that has frustrated Democrats for three years.  After the stimulus bill was passed unemployment increased.  Fact.  Some Republicans argued that this proves that the stimulus increased unemployment.  This is obviously bad thinking, since the only way to measure the impact of the stimulus is to compare it to what unemployement would have been if there was no stimulus at all or if the stimulus was bigger.  If unemployment would have been higher without the stimulus, then the stimulus did not increase unemployment, even if unemployment increased after the stimulus was passed.

The same applies to spending by a candidate.  The way to judge the impact of money (and Citizens United) on a campaign is not whether the best funded candidate wins or loses, but by how the race would be different if a candidate had more or less money.  Does anyone think Gingrich would still be in the race except for his Super-Pac?  I doubt it.  Romney has fended off challengers by carpet-bombing them with massive ad campaigns, and even then only barely Santorum in his home state.  Does anyone think that Romney would have done just as fine without the money to destroy his opponents?  I am skeptical.

Saying Romney’s money proves money doesn’t buy elections is like saying Romney nomination proves that supporting an individual mandate will win you the Republican nomination.  I will have more to say about the state of the race tomorrow, but it should suffice to say now that this is an example of the sloppy and/or deceptive thinking being used by some to undermine criticism of Citizens United.

Citizens United is a major problem and needs to be addressed.  This primary season only proves further how small groups of undisclosed donors can vastly distort campaigns and politics.  Don’t let sloppy thinking invade this discussion.

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