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Running for Office: Low ROI

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Why do otherwise smart and wealthy people continue to waste their own money running for office on self-funded campaigns? This year real-estate mogul Josh Rales spent nearly $5 million in a primary election for the Maryland Democratic US Senate nomination. Keep in mind there is very, very little chance the Democrats will take control of the Senate this year—so the best Rales can hope for is to win a position as a minority Senator. Even worse, however, is that he isn’t expected to win the nomination.
Two years ago we saw Blair Hull pour $28.6 million dollars into a failed attempt to win the Democratic primary for an Illinois Senate seat, while former bond trader E.J. Pipkin sunk $1.6 million in an failed run against Barbara Mikulkski.
This clearly is not how smart money influences US politics. So how does smart money do it? The Rupert Murdoch way. When the Republicans took over the Congress 12 years ago, a group of neoconservative political operatives, journalists and policy wonks convinced him to pledge a few million dollars each year into the magazine we know as “The Weekly Standard.” The magazine has been enormously influential, and has largely reshaped a republican party that was tending libertarian and anti-interventionist in the early and mid-nineties into the Party of Bush, enthusiastic for energetic government and hawkish on foreign policy. The US electorate may not be for sale but our intellectual class can be picked up for pennies on the dollar.
Cost of name recognition
[Balitmore Sun]