Our election campaigns are so awash in cash and our politicians are so trained to engage in incessant, mindless fundraising that seemingly nothing is off-limits, no matter how silly or classless.
Witness President Obama’s recent videotaped message offering his supporters a chance to participate in a raffle for a chance to have dinner with the President and Vice President Biden. The message, which was filmed somewhere in the White House and emailed to millions of people, was accompanied by a form offering supporters the chance to check boxes making donations of between $5 and $700 for a chance to win the dinner.
There are arguments about whether or not the raffle constitutes “fundraising,” and if so whether the appeal was improper because it was filmed in the White House. I don’t know enough about campaign finance law to opine on such issues, but I do feel strongly that the appeal cheapens both the Office of the Presidency and the White House. Our President’s time should not be raffled off like it is a weekend at a Hilton Head condo or a hot air balloon ride. And although other Presidents apparently have used the White House, to varying degrees, for fundraising purposes, can’t we all agree that one of the most historic and venerated buildings in the land should not be used like a cheap backdrop in the eternal quest for cash?
The amount of money raised in political campaign is obscene. Candidates from both parties don’t seem to have trouble raising money by giving speeches, attending political dinners, and appearing at standard-issue fundraisers. President Obama’s 2012 campaign fundraising goal is somewhere above $750 million, and some are saying he will raise $1 billion. Given his proven ability to raise huge amounts of money the old-fashioned way, why must we stoop to tawdry raffles and similar fundraising gimmicks that make our President look foolish?