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Tom Zirpoli: Millionaires bankrolling this election

For some, it seemed like a good idea at the time. The unintended consequences, however, have not been helpful to our democratic system.

Richard Hasen, professor of law and political science at the University of California, states that the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. FEC "provided a green light for super PACs to collect unlimited sums from individuals, labor unions and corporations for unlimited independent spending."

For the court, it was a simple matter of protecting free speech. For politicians, it was a ticket to significant financial contributions.

Republicans and Democrats celebrated the freedom to have rich supporters pour unlimited amounts of money into PACs supporting their campaigns, with few restrictions. Again, it sounded like a good idea at the time. But this year, for Republicans, the new rules may cost them the 2012 presidential election.

Mitt Romney would likely be the sole GOP presidential candidate were it not for the fact that both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich each have their own personal billionaires willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to keep their campaigns going.

As of last week, for example, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has contributed more than $16 million to the Gingrich campaign PAC.

Without these super rich contributors, Santorum and Gingrich would have already been sidelined. Instead, Romney has been forced to spend his campaign funds fighting his fellow Republicans rather than Obama.

The results have not been good for Romney who, if he survives to be nominated, will become one of the weakest Republican nominees for president. Santorum and Gingrich have hurt Romney significantly by driving his unfavorable ratings to a record high for a major presidential candidate. Of course, Romney has done some of the damage himself with multiple missteps on the campaign trail.

Romney's substantial lead in the delegate count makes it almost impossible for his opponents to capture the Republican nomination. Currently, Romney has 55 percent, Santorum 24 percent, and Gingrich 14 percent of the 1,013 officially designated GOP delegates. With the primary season almost halfway over, the math is against both Santorum and Gingrich. By staying in the race, they are only making Romney a weaker candidate for the general election.

Given all of the cheering crowds and the media attention, it must be difficult for a presidential candidate to step aside for another candidate.

Hillary Clinton had this challenge in the 2008 presidential campaign. Under normal circumstances, the lack of money eventually forces most failing candidates to go home. But when a billionaire is bankrolling their run in the sun, the party can go on as long as their sugar daddy is willing to write the checks.

This new funding system hasn't been good for the GOP this year, and it will not be good for Democrats during their post-Obama primary seasons in the future.

Money has always corrupted the political system in America, but the removal of contribution limits has made it worse. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that outside sources provided $14 million to the various presidential campaigns through March 8, 2004 and $37 million through March 8, 2008. For this 2012 presidential campaign, outside sources have spent more than $88 million during the same time period.

At least in the past donation caps kept billionaires from taking over the entire system.

Today, a few billionaires fund their own personal candidates as if they are horse owners at the track.

It should be a concern for all Americans that a few rich individuals may get to decide who our presidential candidates will be.

While it was once difficult for a person of average income to run for office, the new rules make it almost impossible.

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