Mitt's Millions: Contributions?

In last night's Republican debate, Mitt Romney declined to say how much money he had contributed to his own campaign. This is certainly his privilege, and he can certainly claim that it is strategic information that would give an advantage to his opponents. He is required to reveal that number in the quaterly filings that are required of candidates, and I imagine he will do so at that time. However, I believe that I already know the exact amount of money, to the penny, that Romney has "contributed" to his own campaign. That number is precisely zero. Rather Romney has lent the money to his campaign, $17 million as of last quarters filings, and possibly as much as $40 million by the next filing. Who knows how much he will lend himself before this is all over.

Is there a difference between "contributing" money to your own campaign and lending it? Or at least, is there a difference that the public ought to care about? Well, yes, there is a big difference, one that will make a big difference in governing should Romney win. The difference is this: contributions are lost forever, whether the candidate wins or loses. But loans can be repaid by the campaign, and likely will be if the candidate wins. You see, there are a large number of people (let's call them "lobbyists") who like to bet on the race after the horses have crossed the finish line. What lending money to your campaign does is set up a legal conduit for "campaign contributions" to go directly to the candidate after the election.

Romney likes to boast that his self-financed campaign makes him independent of the lobbyists; in fact, the opposite is true. Further, it sets up a perverse incentive to overspend. If he spends $40 million and loses, he loses everything; but if he can improve his chances by lending himself $80 million, he can easily recover it. In other words, the bigger the loans, the better the chances, and the larger the conduit to "legal" personal contributions from lobbyists.

If Romney is serious about lowering the involvement of lobbyists, then he ought to convert the "loans" to contributions. This will announce to the world that he has no intention of collecting them from lobbyists after the election. If he refuses to do so, it will be as much as an admission that he intends to be repaid, and the lobbyists will have a field day, most likely at the expense of the public.

2 comments:

B. Y. Clark Monday, January 28, 2008 at 7:55:00 AM CST  

A president, like members of congress, are constantly raising money. While I think this has corrupted the process generally, I don't see how Mitt is any different. While I'm not Mitt fan, he would be doing nothing significantly different than his predecessors it more of an order thing. He gets money from lobbyists and influence peddlers, they just give it to him later.

Dustin Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 2:51:00 PM CST  

Viva la France!

Listen lemming! RON PAUL 2008!

Never mind the bullocks, or... Let the bullocks elect your next Dictator.

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