William F. Buckley

It is dismaying to those who have sought so earnestly to slightly remove politics from money that the upward spiral continues. In 2000, George W. Bush spent $186 million to complete his campaign for president. In 1980, Ronald Reagan spent $29 million. What is the hypothetical high figure we are headed for? And what are the implications of campaigns of that economic cost?

Some years ago, contemplating whether to make another run for office, Jack Kemp said to a friend that his decision was finally made when he was told by his bookkeeper that he would need to raise $35,000 every day between New Year's and Election Day. He decided to quit politics.

That is the story at the other end. We need to worry about financial contributors to political races and what their effect is on people who run for office. But we need also to worry about candidates who are discouraged from attempting to serve by the bumpiness of the prospective road ahead. It is many things, going out to raise campaign money. It is boring, repetitious, humiliating and demoralizing. There are men and women brave enough and patriotic enough to endure the preliminaries, but there are also the Jack Kemps who, after a long run of it, decide to quit.

The market has a role in it all, necessarily. If donors allocate $500 million to encourage one person's political venture, they have to see that there is something in it for them. For their country ... sure. But disembodied political philanthropy is usually the kind that comes in the form of $20 bills sent to the candidate. Five-thousand-dollar donations usually have in mind the matter of new telephone poles.


William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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