Returns On Political Spending

Last night at the presidential debate in Atlanta more than one contender blamed political dysfunction on the political power of billionaires. But that’s a myth. Try finding a billionaire who earns anything close to the 10,000x return on political spending earned by California’s 57,000 public prison employees who collect $10 billion in annual compensation and benefits for $1 million in political spending. Political power is correlated more with focus than wealth.

Some corporations also earn high returns on political spending. This year Medicare will purchase $100 billion of prescription drugs under federal rules that prohibit the federal government from negotiating drug discounts. OpenSecrets.org reports that pharmaceutical and health products companies have contributed $9 million to members of Congress so far this session:

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Those figures disprove another myth spread last night that “hundreds of millions” of dollars are spent by healthcare enterprises to get their way in Washington. Contributions per member are also not large:

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Even the top ten recipients collect relatively small amounts — especially relative to their authority over $100 billion per year of spending:

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Contributions from other special interests are also not large. Look at the top donors to Anna Eshoo, who chairs the House Sub-Committee on Health:

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Just 3700 people — .001 percent of Americans — contributing $100 each could provide just as much money.

When it comes to political power, the ability to organize donations to legislators is more powerful than any one individual’s donations. Don’t blame special interests for getting their way in Sacramento or Washington. Blame yourself if you’re not part of a team donating to legislators willing to govern in the general interest. They can’t do their job without your help.

Govern For California is a network of individuals joining forces to help California legislators to govern in the general interest. If you want state-operated schools, health insurance and prisons to work and tax dollars to go to services instead of cronies, write us at info@governforcalifornia.org.

Written by

Lecturer at Stanford University and president of Govern For California

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