When money buys elections: the case of Steve Litzow and Andy Hill, as well as Tom Steyer
[The Bellevue Reporter published this in an abbreviated form as a letter-to-the-editor in their print edition today, including the part about Litzow and Hill’s funding by the Koch brothers. So far the letter isn’t appearing on their website.]
According to letsfreecongress.com, in the 2012 US House elections, 95% of the candidates that outspent their opponents won, and 1% of the donors contributed 68% of the campaign funding.
Nevertheless, election spending has a limited ability to flip elections. According to Americans for Campaign Reform, once a threshold of spending is exceeded, additional campaign spending yields little or no returns.
But campaign spending on close races certainly can flip elections, as it did in 2010, when spending by Charles and David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity unseated Democrats Eric Oemig and Randy Gordon from the Washington State Senate in the 41st and 45th LD, replacing them with Republicans Steve Litzow and Andy Hill. (The State Republican Party was later fined for violating election reporting requirements in that election. See also How the Koch Brothers worked to defeat Democrats in Washington State.)
On the left, spending by California billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer helped elect Democrat Terry McAuliffe as Governor of Virginia and helped sway California voters on legislative elections and ballot initiatives.
If money is speech, then lawmakers will tend to serve the interests of the rich. We need to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that treats money as speech and we need public financing of campaigns so that wealthy donors can’t buy elections.