Mother's Milk of Politics Flowing Freely

If Meg Whitman loses her bid to become California's next governor, will any other candidate spend $142 Million of her (or his) own money to run for political office?  Time will tell.  But recent history shows that throwing big money around during this mid-term election is a trend.

According to Kantar Media researchers, $3 billion has been spent on television advertising alone during the 2010 campaign.  That's $300 million more than was spent on the 2008 Presidential and Congressional races, and $600 million in TV advertising that was bought during the last mid-term election of 2006.

Individuals and groups who have money now have more political power than ever because of this year's Supreme Court ruling that free-speech rights trump campaign spending limits.

Some of the races are well documented. One example is Harry Reid's battle to hold onto his political life in Nevada. Another is the oil industry's efforts to kill, or at least substantially delay, California's landmark global warming law.

But the new realities extend to the very local level as well.

In San Francisco, the supervisor who represents the city's well-heeled Pacific Heights area is being termed out of office after losing a court challenge. 

So Michela Alioto-Pier organized an independent expenditure committee to fight the election of her heir-apparent Janet Reilly, who happens to be the wife of a political power broker in the city.

Because of the new realities, Alioto-Pier raised almost $200,000 with two phone calls. One brought a $141,000 contribution from a man who made a fortune in real estate, and the other coaxed $50,000 from a San Francisco socialite. 

Alioto-Pier defends her effort, saying it's about the future of the city. To most other people, though, it's more about the future of politics, as a whole. 

It's always been about 'who you know.'  Now, it's more about who you know with lots of money, or access to it.

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