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Hill Harper, a TV actor turned U.S. Senate hopeful, recently revealed his refusal of $20 million from a wealthy businessman to drop out of the Democratic primary against Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.

Instead, Harper flipped the script, turning his denial of the offer into a fundraising plea, saying he won’t be “Bossed, bullied or bought.”

Harper spoke out against “a broken political and campaign finance system that’s tilted towards the wealthy and powerful.” Harper’s estimated net worth is $12 million.

To some, the offer and Harper’s refusal seemed like a political ploy to garner publicity. To others, it spoke of honesty and integrity. The reality is that it could be both or neither for someone whose presence here was minimal before his campaign.

Harper purchased the Charles T. Fisher Mansion in Detroit in 2017, often used for special events, and owns a local coffee shop. Los Angeles was home to the Iowa native.

Slotkin’s campaign is generously funded to the tune of $8.7 million as of September 2023. However, she also raised residency concerns after changing her address to that of a campaign donor and lobbyist in order to run in the new 7th Congressional District. Offers to support candidates placed in races to oppose others is nothing new. Disclosing such may be admirable but also risky. Politics is a dirty and dangerous game with many moving parts and people.

It is not for the faint of heart or designed for those who genuinely want to make a difference in a system structured to do anything but.
Candidates are also often “financially encouraged” to enter a race to help split the vote or to drop out of races to strengthen the chances of another candidate. That strategy was used by Democrats who funneled financial support to a contender in the primary to successfully eliminate former Republican Congressman Pete Meijer from the race.  He is now running in the Republican primary for Senate.

Politics is laced with process and profits. Donors gain access to and demand accountability for their agendas from those they support. They strategically spread their contributions across the aisle and candidates to ensure their support is recalled and reciprocated by whoever wins.

A few years ago, a group of businessmen quietly sought to identify and support a congressional candidate to run against someone they had supported earlier.  They flipped on them after their win, so the group sought to take their support and dollars elsewhere. Like with other investments, political donors want returns, too.

Once, a mayoral candidate with limited campaign funds and notoriety ended up with a well-placed commercial that ran during the Super Bowl. They didn’t win but landed a job with the person who did. It only made me believe they were placed in the race with the belief of siphoning votes from a stronger competitor.

Money is often used as a solid determinant to project a candidate’s success, making donors and their dollars all the more influential. Its impact and use go beyond commercials and kicker cards to include seen and unseen moves.

Politics is a chess game that is played around donor laws, contribution guidelines, and residency requirements. It navigates people, policy, and practices.  As a result, voters are often left out of the equation. None of what we see in campaigns or their outcomes is a dice roll left to chance.  It is all deliberate and by design. At the end of the day and campaign, we’re sadly not left with much more.

It may not be right, but it is very real.

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