Big money, small issues
Tom Golisano isn't a particularly big name with people who aren't New York political junkies. He's basically Ross Perot writ small. He's a billionaire who founded a third party (the Independence Party), ran for governor a few times and did surprisingly well, and holds idiosyncratic but generally center-right views.
His latest project has more national ramifications. He's apparently bankrolling efforts to implement the National Popular Vote plan, a work-around meant to abolish the Electoral College without amending the Constitution. The idea is to have states representing the 270 electoral votes needed to win a presidential election pledge to assign their votes to the winner of the popular vote. A good number of states have passed laws implementing the plan already, but several more would need to sign on for it to take effect.
Golisano hasn't explained how he plans to push for this, but I suspect it'll involve spending on behalf of state legislators who support the plan. That's actually one of the most interesting results I could see coming out of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. Obviously, congressional and presidential elections are higher profile, but they're also very expensive, which limits the bang wealthy or corporate donors can get for their buck. State and local races are small enough that a decent-size expenditure by an outside party could be decisive. This has already happened to some degree in West Virginia, where coal mogul Don Blankenship spent a few million dollars to get a pro-coal state Supreme Court.
So instead of seeing wealthy donors spend millions to get "their man" elected to the Senate or House, I expect projects like this, in which the donor cares about a single issue and the cost to back each candidate is low, so electing enough allies to pass the pet bill in question is affordable. This is a pretty benign case, in that the National Popular Vote plan is both a good idea and not in Tom Golisano's personal self-interest, but I could see, say, agricultural companies ensuring pro-corn statehouses using the same methods.
Photo by Mike Groll/Associated Press.
Dylan Matthews is a student at Harvard University and a researcher at The Washington Post.
| February 3, 2011; 3:00 PM ET
Save & Share: Previous: Are Obama's poll numbers dissuading challengers?
Next: Wonkbook: $32 billion in cuts; decreased mortgage backing; efficiency initiative
Posted by: ctown_woody | February 3, 2011 3:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mvymvy | February 3, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mvymvy | February 3, 2011 4:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DDAWD | February 3, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: ctown_woody | February 3, 2011 5:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MOmark | February 3, 2011 6:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mvymvy | February 3, 2011 6:08 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: msoja | February 3, 2011 11:02 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DwightCollins | February 4, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: DwightCollins | February 4, 2011 4:34 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dave_sheehan641 | February 4, 2011 4:57 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dasimon | February 4, 2011 5:45 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: dasimon | February 4, 2011 5:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: mvymvy | February 4, 2011 8:05 PM | Report abuse