Noah Bierman for the LAT:
Money may yet prevail in this year’s presidential election, but the failure so far of big donors to propel candidates to the top of the heap has shown the limitations of even huge stockpiles of cash and put some critics of lax campaign finance laws on the defensive.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who has collected more super-PAC money than any candidate, finished with less than 3% of the vote in Iowa, where his super PAC spent about $3,000 on television ads for every vote he won. Although he says he hopes for a “reset” in New Hampshire, Bush has lagged badly in polls leading up to Tuesday’s primary there.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, another early favorite of the big-donor class, dropped out four months before the first ballots were cast.
Meanwhile, two candidates who rail against big money and declined to establish their own super PACs, Republican Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist running as a Democrat, finished near the top of their races.
The lesson, says Richard L. Hasen, a professor at UC Irvine and author of a new book on campaign spending, “Plutocrats United,” is that money remains powerful, but not all powerful.