Can I really save the election with a $3 email contribution?

The U. S. Chamber of Commerce has written checks for $2.6 million to persuade voters in Virginia that President Barack Obama and former Gov. Tim Kaine should not be elected.

The chamber, of course, isn’t alone in the fat check writing department, but it is the most visible since PACs like American Crossroads and Majority PAC don’t identify where their big bucks come from.

So, is it any problem for me or other small amount campaign contributors when those big checks get written?

The big checks, now blessed by the U.S. Supreme Court, cause campaigns to get hysterical. And they write frantic e-mails to people like me insisting that if I don’t write a check for at least $3 our guy is going to lose because, according to Nancy Pelosi:

As of 8 a.m., we are just $138,700 away from the biggest grassroots fundraising month we’ve ever had! …

That’s definitely not what Speaker Boehner bargained for when his Republican Members of Congress poured in $3.2 million to save their Tea Party majority. …

Tonight is the final major fundraising deadline of the election. Will you put us over the top?

Or, from Michele Bachmann:

The stakes this November are unbelievably high. Should the Obama-Democrats defeat me and take over the House, the consequences to our nation would be dire and nearly impossible to reverse. That’s why it’s so important you listen [to the recording attached in the email] and make a much needed contribution to my campaign, at any time during this message.

My desktop computer is suffering from email constipation. It is choked on about 500 e-mails and will not open. Thankfully, my laptop has been able to survive the onslaught.

In September, I received 309 political e-mails -- nearly all asking for money. I can only imagine what large contributors go through in campaign season. When I received 239 in August, I wondered if the number of requests could possibly get worse and. Of course, it did.

E-mail is relatively new to political fund-raising. And the 2012 campaigns have taken it beyond anything previously seen before, especially in a swing state such as Virginia.

Political writers are questioning whether anyone is paying attention to the TV ads that are running back to back in the last days of the campaign. Even President Obama, in the third debate, said we’ve all seen too many TV commercials. That was, no doubt, one of the few comments from the evening that everyone, regardless of party, could agree with.

It is ironic that the e-mail pleadings are for money to buy more TV commercials that everyone is already sick of. Friends tell me the e-mails they receive are zapped as soon as they are arrive. One friend told me recently, “I am done with e-mails from Mike Henry.” Zap, she said. Henry is the campaign manager for Kaine, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate. Henry sent me 14 e-mails in September and there were others claiming to be from Kaine himself, and assorted campaign associates.

So why are my e-mails un-zapped? Because I was curious to see just how many I would receive. And, I agree with many with whom I have spoken: the deluge is overkill. When you receive 22 e-mail requests for money in one day, as I did on Sept. 30, you can’t even begin to think of writing a check. The messages, sent at the end-of-the month reporting deadline, were of the world-may-come-to-an-end-if-you-don’t-write-a-check-today variety.

The champion e-mailers in September were Obama for America (32); Obama himself (11); and Michelle Obama (8). The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sent 15 urging me to help with Congressional elections. None of the candidates they asked me to help are from Virginia.

E-mail requests, of course, aren’t the whole story. There are the letters with messages on the envelopes such as, “Nancy, Let’s finish what we started.” I couldn’t agree more with the start of the letter in this envelope. It reads: “I know that campaigns can seem small, and even silly. Trivial things become big distractions. Serious issues become sound bites. And the truth gets buried under an avalanche of money and advertising.”

The New York Times reported Oct. 23 that, finally, some of the politician hold-outs, now victims of the negative political ads that are raising bipartisan alarm, are talking about political campaign reform. Thank goodness. But, will they remember after the election?

This isn’t my first rant about political campaign costs and the tone of campaigns. After I ran for office years ago, I lamented that party leaders look for candidates who either have money or can raise it. If you happen to have any common sense or experience, that is a plus, but not particularly necessary.

So the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit that tracks campaign spending, reports that $30 million has been spent on Virginia’s Senate race by Super PACs and other outside groups, not even mentioning the little folks like me who are responding to the flood of e-mail requests for dollars. My laptop just pinged. One more just arrived. The Associated Press reports that $1.1 billion will have been spent in the United States on TV spots for the 2012 campaigns.

In the midst of tracking the fundraising requests, I noted this message in our church newsletter:

Bainbridge Community Ministry is experiencing an urgent need for food. The director, Lynn Kendrick, says their shelves are frequently bare and her meager budget is inadequate to meet needs. In addition, churches who usually contribute have cut back because of pressing needs in their own congregations. She spoke of how difficult it is to see grown men desperate for work and for food to the point of breaking into tears.

Could we possibly hope that the leaders we elect Nov. 6 might tackle the madness that now characterizes our elections?


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