With Election Day mere hours away, the Campaign Legal Center is taking a final swipe at the amount of money Americans are spending communicating with voters. Aghast that total election spending may pass $6 billion, the Center crunches the numbers on what that money could buy if it weren’t spent on political speech:
With $6 billion we could create 103,500 jobs in the United States.
With $6 billion you could buy 171,428,571,429 gallons of gas for your car - that’s enough gas for 155,844,156 American households.
With $6 billion you could buy 1,734,104,046 gallons of milk – enough for 8,627,383 people for an entire year.
With $6 billion NASA could build 2 new Mars Rovers.
With $6 billion, 1.5 million students could receive Pell Grants to make college more affordable.
We won’t quibble with CLC’s numbers (except to note that milk is not 100 times more expensive than gasoline). But we will note that CLC’s list omits something else that could be done with $6 billion.
With $6 billion, we could fund the entire federal government . . . for 14 hours.
In the coming year, the federal government will spend $3.8 trillion. That’s really big money. And as long as the federal government controls that kind of money, there will be no shortage of individuals and groups willing to spend money to express their opinion on who should be holding the purse strings. Indeed, that’s why much of the growth in political spending has been driven by the growth of the federal budget.
At IJ, we don’t think $6 billion dollars is too much money for Americans to spend on political speech. In fact, we don’t think the amount of money Americans choose to devote to political advocacy is any of our business. In a free country, speakers can decide for themselves how much of their money and time they wish to spend making their views heard. But for those who do think that $6 billion could be put to better use, the solution is clear: Unless you reduce the amount of politics in money, you’ll never reduce the amount of money in politics.