Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What the Iowa Caucus Results Show about Campaign Financing

There has been much outrage expressed - by unlikely allies Newt Gingrich and Chris Matthews - about the baneful influence of political commercials financed by big money groups not specifically affiliated with any candidate.  Gingrich, who came in 4th in Iowa, and Matthews of MSNBC, specifically singled out the four million dollars worth of campaign ads put on the Iowa air by a pro-Romney group against Gingrich.

And Gingrich did lose.  And Romney did win-

But by a total of eight votes.  And Rick Santorum, who came in such a close second, had virtually no money spent on his behalf on ads.   He came in so close to first the good old-fashioned way - by pressing the flesh, in-person, across Iowa.

I agree with literally none of Santorum's views that I know of.  But I appreciate the unavoidable conclusion of his almost-victory: spending on TV commercials counts for nothing.  One candidate spent a fortune, the other spent next to nothing, and they both came in tied in the lead.

I've been arguing, for years, that the Jeffersonian view that people are inherently rational, can separate truth from falsity, means we shouldn't get so upset about campaign financing, and in fact the government, as per the First Amendment, should stay totally out of this.  Last night the Republican caucuses in Iowa made this point with clean, mathematical eloquence.

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