Monday, August 14, 2006

The Pete Ricketts Vanity Project: $7 Million and Counting

by Kyle Michaelis
It must be nice to be the son of a billionaire. It doesn't mean people are going to like you. It doesn't mean people are going to believe in you. But, as Pete Ricketts is demonstrating with his self-funded campaign, it does mean you don't really have to care.

Yesterday's Omaha World-Herald reported that Ricketts just wrote a $1.7 million check to his campaign to unseat incumbent U.S. Senator Ben Nelson. They wrote:
The priciest political race in Nebraska history just got a little more expensive.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Pete Ricketts has given an additional $1.7 million to his campaign, bringing his total personal contributions for the general election to $2.425 million, said campaign spokeswoman Jessica Moenning.

That will trigger the so-called "millionaires' amendment," a provision of federal election law that will allow Ricketts' opponent, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson, to collect more money from individual contributors.

Under the amendment, once a self-financed candidate's spending hits certain levels, an opponent may raise higher-than-normal amounts from donors to catch up.

Normally, individuals can give up to $2,100 to a U.S. Senate candidate. Nelson may now collect up to $12,600 from individuals....

The cost of the Nelson-Ricketts contest is expected to top $15 million. The candidates had raised a combined $12.3 million as of June 30.

The previous high spending total was in 1988, when Democrat Bob Kerrey defeated Republican U.S. Sen. David Karnes in a race in which the candidates spent more than $7 million....

The Nelson-Ricketts race is the first time the millionaires' amendment has come into play in Nebraska.

$1.7 million. Now, when normal Nebraskans think about numbers like that, we expect them to be printed on a giant personal check to be handed over at a press conference for lottery winners. Either that or Ed McMahon has brought it to the door.

But, that's not the world Pete Ricketts inhabits. For him, this is just another drop in the bucket. For him, all those zeros and all those stacks of bills we regular folks fantasize about may as well be printed on Monopoly money. It's a game - no more, no less. And, it's a game Ricketts thinks he can win, regardless of what the polls tell him, because he knows, at the end of the day, he's the man with more zeros and thicker stacks of bills at his disposal.

And, at his disposal just about says it because this money may as well be thrown on a bonfire, tossed in the garbage, or flushed down the toilet for all the good it's going to do for the people of Nebraska.

What's so noticeably lacking from the Omaha World-Herald's report on Ricketts' latest expenditure is any mention of his total contributions so far to this demonstration of one man's vanity masquerading as democracy. It needn't have been the headline - after all, most people already know that Ricketts spent $5 million of his own money just for the Republican nomination, and they can probably handle basic addition: more than $5 million then + more than $2 million now = more than $7 million dollars so far.

Still, this latest $1.7 million is a pretty huge increment. And, now that the Millionaire's Amendment has been triggered, Ricketts is unlikely to show any further restraint all the way up to election day. Following Ricketts' spending patterns from the primary - while taking into account the infinitely higher-caliber of his opponent in the general election - there's every reason to believe that Ricketts will be putting another $3 million of his dad's Ameritrade fortune into his Senate campaign, and it would not surprise at all if his total personal spending reaches $12 million before all is said and done.

Of course, it's hard to imagine there's enough air time in this entire state to spend that much money on advertising between now and November. But, if Ricketts is serious about winning - if Ricketts seems to have any shot at this thing in post-Labor Day polling - the sky really is going to be the limit.

By himself, with his own money, Ricketts has already spent more to become a U.S. Senator than was spent by both sides in Nebraska's previously record-holding race. Ricketts has already raised the stakes so high, playing from a pool of money that may as well be limitless, that the only check on his spending is the tolerance of Nebraska's voters for the price tag he is willing to put on their democracy.

Is $7 million too much for a rich man's son to pay for a Senate seat? Is $10 million? Is $12 million? The people have their limits, and - regardless of how much Nelson spends - they're going to understand that it's Ricketts' free spending ways that have set the tone for the campaign, making it a war of dollar signs that seems to be motivated very little by issues or an actual vision for our nation.

8 Comments:

Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

OK, so a wealthy individual wants to spend his or her own money on a Senate campaign as the candidate...what's the problem?

Ben Nelson is currently the wealthiest member of the congressioanl delegation and he cheats on his taxes. So if Nelson injects his own money it's OK, but if an "R" does it, it's not?

I can see why no one has commented...this is a worthless piece you've written.

8/15/2006  
Anonymous Dundee Reader said...

$1.7 M - that's approximately one dollar for every person in Nebraska.

One thinks he could have simply paid his property taxes and not made a stink over it.

I hope that the rather frugal - and in some counties, very impoverished - people of the state stop and wonder at the amount of money Mr. Ricketts has and realize that he has very little in common with them. How can he understand ths issues that face people who live in Loup County? In Red Willow? I don't think he has much of a clue about what faces his neighbors just a few blocks away from his mansion...

8/15/2006  
Anonymous TedK said...

I have no problem with a rich candidate infusing his campaign with personal funds, to a point. But the amount of money Ricketts is spending is obscene. I recall Nelson agreeing to stop all ads until Oct. 1, but Ricketts refused. I don't see how more ads will lower his disapproval rating below 50%. His massive spening now allows Nelson to collect much larger donations further increasing his allegiance to the rich in this state.

8/15/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alrighty so I think the point you were trying to make is this... Ricketts just dropped a huge hunk of change into his U.S. Senate campaign, right. Gosh, you should really think about summarizing and getting straight to the point. The commentary on your part is useless and unnecessary. Yes Pete just dropped $1.7 million into his campaign, but doesn't this help Bad Faith Ben? I mean now he can rally his troops and accept a lot more money. Maybe even hire a production company that can put together a decent commercial...I have an idea,
Maybe you should write Pete a letter explaining your concerns about the extra boost he's giving his campaign. Maybe he would send you a response that really meant something. Unlike Ben's constituent response letters that basically have no true meaning other than to silence or appease those who criticize him...because he doesn't feel it's appropriate to tell them "WHERE TO GO"...but yet he still felt it was appropriate to make that comment at the NBA debate in Lincoln. HUH???? Man... what a great senator we've got!!! He cares so much it hurts.

8/15/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pete ricketts: nothing but deep pockets and the stupidest commercials ever seen in this state. For those watching the debate, here's a partial list of his flip flops: immigration, farm subsidies and national sales tax. i guess it takes a lot of money to pull the wool over the eyes of nebraska voters.

8/15/2006  
Blogger Daily Bulldog said...

You are right, it does take a lot of money to fool NE voters, which is why Nelson has to spend so much.

8/15/2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Flip flop...Ricketts? What debate did you watch really? Nelson was so attached to his notecards it made me sick. Shouldn't a State Senator have concrete knowledge about where he stands on the issues. Notecard Ben is a phoney! He reads whatever is put in front of his face. Believe that. At least Pete made great eye contact and connected with Nebraskans. He believes in what he speaks of. Ben Nelson...not so much!!

8/15/2006  
Anonymous anonymous2 said...

"I'm Pete Ricketts and I approve this message because I make great eye contact - just ignore my flip-flops on immigration, ag subsidies, National Sales Tax, and my family's support for planned parenthood. Just look into my eyes, you're feeling sleepy..."

8/16/2006  

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