Election 2012 -- Mo' Money, Mo' Problems?

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Politicians of all stripes are wont to say that you can't solve a problem by throwing money at it. This year, however -- nationwide and particularly here in San Francisco -- the key to victory seems to be hurling about large sums of money.

As SF Weekly wrote yesterday, proponents of the $195 million parks bond have outspent their foes by a 100-to-1 ratio. Metric shitloads of cash have been spent on behalf of  David Lee's campaign to unseat Eric Mar and large amounts of dinero have been mounted in favor of Mike Garcia and against Supervisor Christina Olague, to name a few.

The multi-million-dollar question is, does it work? Will unprecedented infusions of campaign money benefit the folks spending like a junkie with eight girlfriends?

"I don't know, babe!" says former Mayor Art Agnos. "There have been big spenders in the past, primarily the real estate industry. But we've never seen it like this before."

See also: David Lee's Armada of Soft Money

Parks Bond Proponents Outspend Foes By 100-to-1 Ratio


Agnos notes that heaping piles of money may be more effective now than before due to the divisiveness created by l'affaire Ross Mirkarimi, resulting in tech-turned-political investor Ron Conway and others showering cash into domestic violence-themed anti-Olague ads.

Conway's pal and monetary beneficiary Mayor Ed Lee may think this is the "Year of the Orange Dragon." In this, he's the only one. What it may end up being is the Year of Ron Conway.



"That's what's gonna be the hallmark of 2012 -- the spectacular introduction of high-tech money," continues Agnos. "It's been coming slowly, but it's peaking this year." And it figures to grow, as long as it buys what those throwing it down want it to buy.

Money in politics is an age-old issue, as is fretting by those without much of it that they are doomed in a corrupt process that values dollars over sense.

Jason McDaniel isn't buying it. The S.F. State political science professor notes that he's "generally of the opinion money in elections is not bad." Sure, voters are besieged by mailers and ads, and doorbell-ringing pod people spreading dubious information. But dubious information may be better than no information at all; San Francisco voters are savvier than most, but you'd be surprised how many folks think Gavin Newsom is still mayor here.

McDaniel isn't sure that the piles of money spent on behalf of, say, David Lee, won't just mobilize those already leaning toward Lee to vote for him more emphatically. The professor isn't sure that large amounts of money being injected into a race leads to voters being manipulated.

While he's unsure about this, large amounts of money are definitely being injected into this and all races. If nothing else, today's results will provide experimental data for McDaniel and his colleagues for years to come. And alter the face of the city for years to come.


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