News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.

Schultz question: Will money still buy voter love?

There looks to be a new twist in the decades of voter ambivalence toward those rich enough to finance their own campaigns: For former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, being a billionaire seems to be more of a hindrance than a help as he ponders seeking the presidency as an independent.

In the cases of both Mitt Romney (who spent $45 million of his own fortune as the GOP nominee in 2012) and Donald Trump (whose $66 million investment was just one-fifth of what his campaign spent in 2016), "there were only muted complaints about the unfair advantages of being a candidate who could hold a fund-raiser staring at the mirror in the morning," veteran political analyst Walter Shapiro writes for the Brennan Center for Justice. "That's why the widespread scorn for Schultz's initial foray into the 2020 race marks an unexpected change in public attitudes towards self-funders."

Running on a deep-pocket, I-can't-be-bought platform has its limits, however, he notes with this important nugget of campaign finance analysis from the 2018 midterms: 19 congressional candidates who spent more than $1 million of their own did not get past the primaries. "The anti-Schultz onslaught may have a far larger meaning than the fate of his individual candidacy. Because of Buckley v. Valeo, social disapproval is the only weapon available to deter billionaires from dominating politics."

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