Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ricketts: Another Day, Another (500,000) Dollar(s)

by Kyle Michaelis
Later in the same day that it came to my attention Pete Ricketts had donated a whopping $2.5 million to his campaign for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, Ricketts must have decided to take up my estimation that there was "plenty more where that came from" as something of a challenge.

Having already broken all previous Nebraska records for personal spending in a primary election, Ricketts' quickly dropped another $500,000 into his campaign warchest on Wednesday, matching the same amount he'd reported a week earlier. One million dollars in one week brings Ricketts' personal investment in the Republican primary to a staggering $3 million ($3,000,000).

Now, the family has plenty of money - Daddy (Joe) Ricketts is, after all, a billionaire to whom all these zeroes are not quite as mind-blowing as they would be for your average Nebraska citizen. Still, I can't help thinking that Pete's putting this amount of cash into his political efforts at least required an advance on his allowance.

Heck, if he makes it out of the primary, I'd expect Ricketts might even have to break open the old piggy-bank for a challenge to incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson.

With the ink not even dry on the Ricketts' family bank ledger, it's interesting to wonder what this sudden influx of cash can possibly mean. Ricketts has had the money for focus groups and internal polling all along, but there's really been no indication of what sort of feedback he's been getting.

Is this an act of desperation - pulling out all the stops to make one last go at winning this thing after months of failing to connect with voters? Or, is this a show of confidence, putting Ricketts' money where his mouth is to be prepared to transition his primary campaign into the strongest general election bid possible?

Finally, aren't there any concerns about voter fatigue? I mean, there's only so many ways you can try selling yourself - despite the biggest advertising budget in the world - before you sometimes have to admit that no one's going to buy a defective product.

Of course, when Republican "consumers" have three defective products to choose from on May 9th, who knows how they'll ultimately choose Generic Brand X over Generic Brands Y & Z? Finding out the answers to questions like that is precisely why Ricketts is now spending the big bucks.

And, of course, there's always plenty more where that came from....


Anonymous Ted K said...

See this post at

SELF-FUNDING: A PATH TO NOWHERE. The track record for self-funded candidates is appalling, and doesn’t seem to be improving. Just last week, Ron Gidwitz, a wealthy businessman, finished fourth in the Republican primary for governor in Illinois, after dumping $5.1 million of his own money into the race. That equates to roughly $67 for every vote he received. Illinois, in particular, has been hostile to self-funders, but voters elsewhere also seems to tune out when millionaires run. Only two out of the 43 candidates who have spent more than $1 million of their own money on congressional races since 2002 have won. And the odds are even worse in Senate races. No candidate has won a seat in the Senate since 2002 having spent $5 million or more, though five have tried.

Still, candidates believe they can buy their way into office. The most notable case this cycle is Katherine Harris in Florida, who has set aside $10 million of her inheritance for the race. More recently, though, Pete Ricketts, the former COO of Ameritrade, lent himself another $500,000, adding to the $2 million he’s already put in. That’s only $800,000 shy of the amount Ben Nelson spent in all of 2000, and we’re still seven months out from the general. You’d think, by now, they’d learn their lesson.

--Alec Oveis


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