Republican Linda McMahon lost her race for a U.S. Senate seat from Connecticut to Democrat Chris Murphy.(Photo: Charles Krupa, AP)
WASHINGTON -- Once again, the ability to write a personal check to
cover campaign expenses has proved to be insufficient to get elected, as
80% of self-funded candidates went home as losers.
Republican Linda McMahon, the former CEO of what was World Wrestling
Entertainment, spent nearly $43 million of her own money this year
running a second time for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, according
to the Associated Press. She spent roughly $66 per vote, according to
USA TODAY calculations, as she lost to Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy.
McMahon was the biggest spender or some would say, biggest loser
among the self-funding candidates for Congress this year. Of the 49
candidates for Congress who spent significant sums of their own money to
run for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, only nine won their races,
according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
The track record of self-funding candidates has been consistent, campaign-finance experts say.
"There is no guarantee of a win, but a lack of money is a guarantee
of losing," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of the Campaign Legal
Center. "It's never been about who spends the most money. You just have
to have enough money. There's not been a scientific formula for the
definition of 'enough.' "
Jennifer Steen, an assistant professor of political science at
Arizona State University, said self-funding candidates often have
trouble translating their financial success into the political arena.
While there are successful self-funding political candidates who
already have meaty résumés such as New York City Mayor Michael
Bloomberg, who made a fortune in the financial news service that bears
his surname and has spent over $250 million in three campaigns there
are more like Meg Whitman who fall short. The former e-Bay chief, now
head of Hewlett-Packard, spent about $142 million of her own money in
her unsuccessful 2010 bid for California governor.
"Many of them have impressive credentials in life, but that doesn't
really translate into a compelling story to tell voters," said Steen,
author of a book on self-financing candidates for Congress.
Democrat Suzan DelBene is a candidate who did get voters on her
side. The former Microsoft executive and founder of drugstore.com spent
more than $2.8 million on her successful House race in Washington.
DelBene was sworn in last week to complete the remaining term of
Democrat Jay Inslee, who resigned to run for governor, and will also be
his successor in the 113th Congress.
Self-funding candidates say they invest in their own races to show
that they aren't beholden to special interests. McMahon bristled in a
post-election interview with Bloomberg News at a suggestion that she
tried to buy the campaign.
"What would be my personal gain? I'm not looking for a new career,"
McMahon said in the interview. "I've had a wonderful career. I was
hoping to bring a different voice and perspective and use my skills that
have been honed as a CEO bringing people together. ...I wasn't looking
for a hobby. If I were looking for a hobby, it wouldn't be the United