The Best Votes Money Can Buy

Facts and figures of the most expensive election campaign in U.S. history

15: Rank of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, sponsor of the Medicare drug bill on the Senate side, in lifetime contributions from drug manufacturers

SOURCES Public Campaign, Center for Responsive Politics

illustration: Mirko Ilic

The Numbers Game

Health Insurance

44: Millions of Americans without health insurance

49.4: Millions of dollars given by the health insurance and HMO industries since 1999 to federal campaigns and parties

66: Percentage of that money given to Republicans

7,000: Number of bills introduced during the current session of Congress

6: Number of introduced bills proposing a national health care plan offering comprehensive coverage

2: Number of those health care bills that would extend coverage to children

0: Number of those health care bills that have come to a vote

SOURCES Public Campaign, Center for Responsive Politics

Billionaire vs. Billionaire

George Soros and Harold Simmons, two men about the same age, couldn't be more different. Soros, born in Hungary in 1930, fled to London as a teenager and then to the U.S., building a huge financial empire in the process.

Simmons, born to Texas teachers, started with a drugstore chain and then began buying chemical and waste-disposal firms. Lobby Watch, a branch of the watchdog group Texans for Public Justice, gives this brief description: "Billionaire corporate raider Harold Simmons controls Contran and Valhi, holding companies that run an empire of sugar, manufacturing, metal, chemical, oil, real estate, insurance, and other interests."

One of Simmons's latest plans is to import radioactive waste from Ohio and bury it in west Texas. (See my October 13 Bush Beat item, "Garbage In, Garbage Out.")

Both are now billionaires. Simmons has given money to arthritis and cancer research, Soros to political groups and foundations, such as the Open Society Institute, which finances numerous non-governmental organizations in more than 50 countries.

As of October 24, Soros gave nearly $25 million in Section 527 funds, all of it to further Kerry and other Democrats. Simmons didn't come close to that total, but he and other Republicans started late with their Section 527 giving.

Here were Simmons's 527 contributions of at least $100,000:

May 28, 2004: $100,000 to Club for Growth

July 30, 2004: $300,000 to Club for Growth

August 18, 2004: $1 million to Swift Boat Vets for Truth

September 1, 2004: $500,000 to Progress for America Voter Fund

September 30, 2004: $4 million to Swift Boat Vets for Truth

Faced with always playing catch-up to the corporate contributions that mostly go to the GOP, Soros and other liberals started piling up money through Section 527 more than a year ago.

But Soros did more than just give money. As he said in a September 28 speech at the National Press Club in D.C.: "This is the most important election of my lifetime. I have never been heavily involved in partisan politics but these are not normal times. President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests, and undermining American values."

Following were Soros's major contributions to Section 527 committees:

August 19, 2003: $1 million to America Coming Together

September 12, 2003: $2 million to America Coming Together

September 20, 2003: $2.5 million to America Coming Together

November 1, 2003: $500,000 to Voter Fund

November 1, 2003: $500,000 to Voter Fund

December 23, 2003: $2 million to America Coming Together

December 30, 2003: $955,715 to Voter Fund

December 30, 2003: $955,714 to Voter Fund

January 26, 2004: $300,000 to Campaign for America's Future

March 8, 2004: $1.04 million to Voter Fund

March 9, 2004: $1.04 million to

April 15, 2004: $4.55 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004

June 23, 2004: $250,000 to Democracy for America

August 13, 2004: $2.5 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004

September 1, 2004: $300,000 to the Real Economy Group

September 17, 2004: $325,000 to Democrats 2000

September 20, 2004: $325,000 to Young Democrats of America

September 24, 2004: $100,000 to Win Back Respect

October 8, 2004: $2 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004

October 8, 2004: $3 million to Joint Victory Campaign 2004

As if that wasn't enough, Soros shelled out $500,000 on October 29, according to Political Money Line, to buy anti-Bush ads. He had already chipped in $50,000 for the anti-Bush ad "He just doesn't get it."

SOURCES Political Money Line, FEC, Center for Responsive Politics

Nonstop: NYC to South Dakota

The price of just one vote in the U.S. Senate race in South Dakota is $89 and climbing. Minority Leader Tom Daschle's attempt to stave off a challenge by Republican John Thune became the most expensive congressional race in the nation.

The whole state of South Dakota has a population of about 764,000, and the number of likely voters was estimated to be no more than 370,000. To reach them, a total of $33 million was raised and almost $28 million spent, as of October 28, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that didn't count the Section 527 funds pouring in to buy ads and round up voters.

Four years ago, New York "boasted" of having the most expensive non-presidential race: the U.S. Senate contest between Hillary Clinton and Rick Lazio, which nearly broke the $100 million barrier. This time, New Yorkers still have a big stake in a non-presidential race: Residents of zip code 10021 (see above) had funneled more than a quarter of a million dollars to Daschle's aid, as of October 25. In fact, six of the top 10 zip codes contributing to Daschle abut Central Park.

Following were Daschle's top 10:

1. 10021 New York, NY (Upper East Side–Lenox Hill) $255,860

2. 20007 Washington, D.C. $98,850

3. 57105 Sioux Falls, SD $98,199

4. 10019 New York, NY (Midtown) $95,450

5. 10028 New York, NY (Upper East Side–Yorkville) $93,200

6. 10023 New York, NY (Upper West Side–Lincoln Center) $87,570

7. 10022 New York, NY (Upper East Side) $87,445

8. 20008 Washington, D.C. $85,250

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