The Washington Post

Rick Perry’s $17 million: A good deal to keep the show going

17 million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? 17 billion dollars.

As George Bernard Shaw allegedly said, “We have established what you are. Now we are just haggling on price.”

Now, after the first 49 days of his campaign, Perry has raised 17 million dollars — “20,000 unique donors from all 50 states, DC, Puerto Rico, and Guam. With more than half of donors living outside of Texas,” the Drudge Report noted.

A groundswell, you might say. A better way of putting this might be, “At least 10,000 people not currently residing in Texas donated to Rick Perry, and Rick Perry wound up with $17 million.”

But why nitpick? It’s the only good news the Perry campaign has had in a while, after he performed at the last GOP debate like something that had crawled from under a rock — specifically, we learned this week, a five-foot-by-three-foot rock with an offensive word painted on it.

Still, think of all the other things you could do with $17 million besides donate them to Rick Perry. Dan Snyder could have gotten about one-quarter of a yacht! Maybe it’s all small donors, but since I haven’t received any e-mails saying Rick Perry Wants to Have You For Dinner, I assume not. (Then again an e-mail like that might have been misconstrued.)

And he needs that money. Making ads like this costs serious cash. And running for president is hardly cheap.You have to spend a lot of your own and your donors’ money to convince the American people that you are the man to save theirs.

Chris Cillizza notes that “a candidate must be able to raise between $30-$50 million in order to simply fund serious campaigns (television ads, direct mail, voter identification and turnout efforts) in the majority of” early-voting primary states.

Perhaps this is as it should be. If it weren’t, anyone might be able to run for president, and then we would end up with strange, tortured, bald individuals with names like Thad.

What’s that you say? Oh, well, never mind.

Stephen Colbert was trying to satirize the role of money in politics but in the course of doing so, he discovered that reality had outrun him. If I’m understanding campaign finance laws correctly, you can donate anything you want to anyone you want, and only sometimes do you have to disclose this, as long as you are a corporation, because to do otherwise would limit your free speech. But I might be understating it a little.

And now Occupy DC — our version of the Occupy Wall Street protest; smaller, more policy-oriented, and less stylish than what New York has, like most D.C. variants of New York things— wants corporate money out of politics. This would be a shame — corporations are people, my friend, as Mitt Romney says.

Besides, if there weren’t any of this nice corporate money in politics, we might think Rick Perry was already out of the race, and then we’d be in for a boring 13 months.

The presidential election falls somewhere between a Hollywood movie and a horrifying local production of “Sweeney Todd” in terms of sheer entertainment value. By those standards, the price is just about right.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".


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