While Chattanooga’s working poor struggle through another holiday season, the champagne will be flowing on Monday, Dec. 5, at the home of Alexis and Barry Bogo, where Wonderkid Weston Wamp will hold his first campaign fundraiser. On that evening, Young Weston hopes to cash in big—a potential haul of more than $245,000, according to calculations made in a recent Nooga.com report—in his bid to replace incumbent Chuck Fleischmann.
Wamp will need the money. Chuck scored a fundraising bonanza when House Speaker John Boehner dropped into town for a fundraiser, raising more than $200,000 for the congressman’s campaign war chest, which stands at $410,539 as of Nov. 19, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Supporters at Wamp’s wingding will be asked to fork over $500 to $1,000 for the opportunity to meet to the young contender in a “business casual atmosphere”, although presumably the invited already support the Son of Wamp. While we’re certain Occupy Chattanooga will be nowhere near the Bogo home (as they were outside the Walden Club for Fleischmann’s fundraiser), we’re anxious to hear Lady J’s (aka Dr. Jean Howard-Hill) reaction to the well-heeled event after accusing Chuck of “whoring” the 3rd District seat to the highest bidder.
Sadly, it takes Big Money these days to be elected to almost any office, and it seems he or she with the most cash almost always wins. Fleischmann, an attorney, spent a record $1.3 million during the 2010 primary and general election in his winning bid to replace Wamp’s dad, Zach, in Congress. But that’s chump change compared to the presidential race, which could exceed $6 billion by some estimates. Money changes everything—and with little life experience and no real platform, Wamp will need a fat campaign wallet to battle his well-funded opponent.
The excessive cost of campaigns is due, in part, to the two-year election cycle. No sooner is a congressman elected than he or she faces the almost instantaneous challenge of gearing up for the battle again. While redistricting and gerrymandering has secured an overwhelming advantage for candidates of a particular party in recent years, resulting in fewer contested elections and a 90 percent re-election rate for incumbents, Congress’ record low approval rating results in fresh congressmen like Chuck having to face a gaggle of opponents from his own party in a primary race.
Incumbents benefit from name recognition and party loyalty, drawing on a base of support and fundraisers featuring top-name lawmakers like Boehner. In campaigns such as the 3rd District, the odds against beating an incumbent, based on 2010 figures with spending of less than $1 million, is 248 to 9. Even with no real opposition from Democrats it seems, it’s still a tough wager.
The stakes only get higher as you move up the political totem pole. Consider U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Chattanooga, who will himself face a re-election campaign next year. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Corker has raised more than $10 million as of Nov. 19. His closest competitor, Zachary Poskevich, also a Republican, has raised just $21,000. Corker is popular and will likely easily win re-election, but the discrepancy between those figures alarms us—as it should everyone.