Who has cash to give to campaigns? 

Want to know perhaps the most puzzling question in American politics? It simply is “Who has enough money in these perilous economic times to give substantial amounts to those running for office, especially the presidency?”

A related question is how much will all this cost before it ends in November. Want to guess? Without exaggerating much — if at all — it could amount to billions.

President Barack Obama himself is expected to raise $1 billion. Before Republicans select his opponent, they could easily spend near that during the primary months before the election.

It all kind of freezes one’s brain, doesn’t it? Thousands of public workers are being laid off, school teachers fired and crucial public services curtailed. Minnesota had to close down its government and other states are threatening to do so. Meanwhile, those we elect to do something about it are spending gazillions just to stay on the job.

The bickering by the political poobahs on Capitol Hill and the shilly-shallying by the White House before getting serious about raising the debt limit by an Aug. 2 deadline to avoid a government default on obligations supports the view that democracy is a highly flawed concept.

This mess cries out for a limit on how much one can spend to gain (or perpetuate) oneself in office. The British do it, so we know it works. While that would most definitely work a hardship on broadcast television and those media consultants who are paid enormous sums to buy the time, it might allow at least some of those campaign contributions to be diverted to more worthwhile concerns. That is said with the full understanding it is probably a naive concept.

But if nothing else, it might cut down on the corruption of the system that has steadily increased with the growth of spending.

With apologies for stating the obvious, money is the driving force of politics and those who benefit the most — and spend the most money to make sure they do — are special interests.

There was a story the other day about members of the largest teachers’ union, the National Education Association, that have lost some faith in Obama. It seems all the money the group raised for him hasn’t produced the desired results he promised — things like the elimination of so much standardized testing and the reduction of the charter school movement.

So it is probably disingenuous for me to say I am puzzled by where all the campaign cash comes from in these hard times. There are still some independent contributors handing over their hard-earned five bucks to their favorite candidate in blind hope he will make their lives better.

Sadly, the real money is from elsewhere and carries with it an unsavory aroma.

Dan K. Thomasson is a former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.

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