In the wake of the most expensive election season in history, we checked in with Nick Nyhart, co-founder, President and CEO of Public Campaign, an organization dedicated to campaign finance reform, to ask about potential solutions to the $6 billion dollar problem.
Lauren Feeney: Six billion dollars were spent on this election. What did it buy?
Nick Nyhart: It bought winners. For the backers of winning candidates, it bought a relationship with those candidates; it bought them access and influence.
Nyhart: There was a small group of conservative billionaires who made loud proclamations about pouring tens of millions of dollars — an unprecedented amount of money from a handful of people — into the campaigns of conservative candidates. They had three real goals. One was to elect the next president, and they came close but failed with Romney as the candidate. The second goal was to elect a Republican Senate, backing hard right ideological conservatives, and they failed spectacularly at that — the conventional wisdom a year ago was that it’d be hard for the Democrats to hold the Senate; instead, their numbers went up. The third goal I think you could say they succeeded in, which was to consolidate the gains made in 2010. Usually, following a wave election like you had in 2010, you’d expect to lose a bunch of seats at the margins that would never have been won were it not for the strong wave of public expression of discontent. Many people thought the Democrats would do much better than they did in the House. So I’d say the conservative billionaires were one for three in their goals.