On government radio Friday, a panel of journalists were bemoaning the high cost of politics. The two leading candidates for president in 2008 might end up spending $500 million each — a billion-dollar election, the pundits wailed in italicized outrage.
It would be nice if politicians and special interests didn't think it was worth half a billion dollars to gain the most powerful office in the world. But it is. The president not only has the power to bomb people, invade countries, hold citizens in jail without a lawyer, burn down churches, and strongly influence policy on issues ranging from abortion to youth unemployment — all of which might cause opinionated citizens to contribute money to political campaigns — he or she also plays a huge role in allocating $2.8 trillion a year of federal spending to favored clients, not to mention tweaking government regulation to help or hurt a candidate's friends.
In Saturday's New York Times, lefty journalist Tom Edsall gloats over the Republican-leaning interest groups who can expect to bear the brunt of Democratic wrath:
Topping the Democratic hit list are the G.O.P.’s closest corporate allies, including the oil and gas industry, student loan companies, and the pharmaceutical manufacturers known as Big Pharma. The list is much
longer. . . .
In many cases, Democrats can exact reprisal against companies that financed the Republican revolution and won special legislative favors in return . . . with the same avoidance of public scrutiny.
A billion dollars for the presidency? Coincidentally, that's just about what Nintendo will take in on the 4 million units of Wii it intends to sell in the last five weeks of 2006.