OP-ED | Buying Votes
As 2012 candidates are already working hard to win financial support, endorsements and media attention for their efforts, CTNewsJunkie revealed this week that U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon invested more than $600,000 into her candidacy though only two weeks into the campaign. The news came at the same time that I noted Mrs. McMahon’s outsized role in the 2010 elections: she was Connecticut’s top spender of the cycle, spending for one out of every three dollars spent in pursuit of election in 2010.
While McMahon’s campaign spending is remarkable on its own, it isn’t fully descriptive of its effectiveness. Considered as a cost per vote, her investment was actually more efficient than some of the other candidates running for office in 2010.
Fifth Congressional District candidate Mark Greenberg had the ignominious distinction of spending the most per vote received in 2010, paying $214.86 for each of his 8,259 votes in the August primary. Write-in candidate Brian K. Hill was a surprising second on this list, spending just shy of $75,000 to receive 559 votes. Like McMahon, both men are running again in 2012.
Combining the primary and general election vote tallies, the former WWE CEO’s cost-per-vote ranked sixth among all candidates. Her opponent in the general election, Dick Blumenthal, spent an efficient $13.62 for each vote he received.
Gubernatorial candidates Tom Foley and Ned Lamont gained similar attention to McMahon for their largely self-funded campaigns but they produced very different results. Ned Lamont spent $124.09 for each of the votes he received in the Democratic primary for Governor. Though Foley’s $90.30 per vote was comparable in the primary, his additional efforts in the general election reduced his cost to vote to $20.98 for the cycle, putting him just ahead of Dan Malloy’s $15.45 per vote spending.
The sheer size of the spending gains attention, but it is striking that despite the amount of money invested, it wasn’t enough to produce victories for any of the candidates on the top ten list. As other research has suggested, the value of spending considerable sums of money on campaigns is highly dubious, at least at it relates to winning elections. It’s an important lesson to keep in mind as the 2012 campaigns heat up.
Heath W. Fahle is the Policy Director of the Yankee Institute for Public Policy and a former Executive Director of the Connecticut Republican Party. Contact Heath about this article by visiting www.heathwfahle.com