Home > THE CAMPAIGN MONEY INDUSTRY: The Rich Buying Elections and Paying Themselves

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The Rich Buying Elections and Paying Themselves


Michael R. Bloombergdid not rule out spending a billion dollars of his own money on the 2020 presidential race, even if he does not win the Democratic nomination, and said he would mobilize his well-financed political operation to help Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren win in November if either is the party nominee, despite their sharp policy differences.”  (Lisa Lerer, New York Times, January 11, 2020)


The current news is inundated with reports regarding [1] billionaires seeking to purchase the presidency; [2] a few Presidential candidates declaring they will not take campaign donations from billionaires notwithstanding the fact that they get millions from other sources; and [3] attacks on Presidential candidates who raise money via donations from billionaires.  These protestations are but the tip of the iceberg referenced herein as the “Campaign Money Industry” (CMI).  

To clarify the nature of the CMI, first consider the money reported to have been raised by the end of the 2019 fourth quarter.



 1.      Donald Trump and the RNC: $154 million

2.      Bernie Sanders: $34.5 million

3.      Pete Buttigieg: $24.7 million

4.      Joe Biden: $22.7 million

5.      Elizabeth Warren: $21.2 million.

6.      Andrew Yang: $16.5 million

7.      Amy Klobuchar: $11.4 million

8.      Cory Booker: $6.6 million

9.      Tulsi Gabbard: $3.4 million

(Business Insider, January 3, 2020). 

As we know, the CMI is not a “level playing field” as evidenced by [1] Bernie Sanders having raised $34 million from more than a million donors as compared to [2] Michael Bloomberg having self-funded $400 million.  Additional insight into the CMI can be gained from a quick glance at Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign funding which was estimated at approximately $1.4 billion of which $623.1 million came from the Hillary Clinton campaign itself; $598.2 million came from the Democratic Party and joint fundraising committees; and $204.4 million came from Super PACS. 

An often-ignored aspect of the CMI is related to where the money is spent, i.e., whose coffers are filled by “campaign spending.”  For example, consider Michael Bloomberg’s spending of $400 million thus far.  A February 17, 2020, Philadelphia Inquirer article indicated, “In the two months since he entered the race, the former New York City mayor has already spent $10.6 million on television and radio advertising across Pennsylvania’s six media markets …an average of more than $1 million a week.  …That’s 68% more than all the candidates in the 2016 Democratic and Republican primaries in Pennsylvania spent on television and radio advertising combined (about $6.3 million in today’s dollars). And it’s 20% of the roughly $50 million Hillary Clinton, then-candidate Donald Trump, and outside groups spent on the airwaves in Pennsylvania in the general election.  …If Bloomberg keeps airing ads at this pace, as expected, his campaign would be on track to spend about $25 million in Pennsylvania alone.”  However, as indicated previously, seldom do we receive reports regarding the largest “media” beneficiaries of this spending.  .

Most of the “media” recipients in the CMI are billionaires!  The “media” in question are companies such as AT&T; Walt Disney; Comcast Corporation; Charter Communications, Twenty-first Century Fox; Thompson Reuter; CBS Corporation: Dish Network and Viacom.   The “media” feeding at the heavily flowing campaign dollar troughs are billionaires such as Sheldon Adelson, Jeff Bezos, Michael Bloomberg, Warren Buffett, The Cox Family, John Henry, Shirley Hubbard, Joe Mansueto,  Rupert Murdock, Don and Samuel Newhouse, Patrick Soon-Shiong, and Mortimer Zuckerman.

Notwithstanding the extent to which Black votes are deemed to be critically important, Black owned and operated media  are seldom major players in the CMI. 

Using Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as an example, note that Bloomberg recently placed a major ad with the New Pittsburgh Courier but that is not normative when it comes to media such as the Pittsburgh Urban Media, Soul Pitt Media, and Talk Magazine.  Pittsburgh Black-owned companies are not the major producers of posters, shirts, hats, signs, billboards, badges and other campaign paraphernalia.

As is the case across the country with the CMI, the full spectrum of Pittsburgh Black leaders and entrepreneurs are not the [1] primary consultants hired by the current cohort seeking the Democratic nomination for President; [2] conductors of major ongoing research for the national campaigns; nor [3] providers of equipment, travel, or office space.  A detailed study is likely to indicate that the primary beneficiaries are media entities such as the billionaire-owned Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune, KDKA, WPGH, WPNT, WPXI, and WTAE. 

In preparation for California, Bloomberg launched a multi-million-dollar social media campaign. Individuals will be paid $2,500 monthly for 20 to 30 hours of work to use the social media app Outvote which is funded by Higher Ground Labs “…a Democratic political technology incubator…” (See The Wall Street Journal, February 20, 2020).  Given the overall significance of the California vote as well as the votes by the various racial groups within the state, this Bloomberg initiative should be a great test for just how “diverse and inclusive” his campaign spending happens to be.

In short, the CMI might well be the “finest hour” of “capitalism gone wild,” the glaring example of that which comes from declaring that “corporations are people.”  It is an industry that helps the rich  grow richer by paying themselves.


Jack L. Daniel (pictured above)

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media

Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black

February 21, 2020

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