It seems two little words have proven a nationwide gold mine for US Rep. Joe Wilson.
Few people outside of South Carolina had ever heard of the Republican Congressman before he shouted “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address last year.
And while Wilson did apologize for his outburst and suffered a rare reprimand from his House colleagues, he also went on the money-raising offensive almost immediately after the incident.
Wilson’s antics have paid off nicely. According to an Associated Press review of CQ MoneyLine data, Wilson is among the top 10 fundraisers for US House seats this election year.
Not only that, the notoriety substantially increased Wilson’s reach, enabling him to draw contributions from across nearly every state in the Union.
Consider the change that’s taken place in Wilson’s fundraising efforts over the past two years.
During the run-up to the 2008 election, Wilson raised just under $430,000. Of that, nearly $350,000, or about 81 percent, came from South Carolina.
Wilson received contributions from supporters in 11 other states for the ’08 election, as well, led by Virginia ($26,850) and California ($14,400).
One election cycle and one ill-timed outburst later, however, and Wilson is pulling in money hand over fist. Through the second quarter of 2010, Wilson has amassed more than $910,000.
What’s more interesting is that he’s gotten money from 49 of 50 states, with only Vermont holding out, according to information from OpenSecrets.org, which is run by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group that tracks money in US politics.
Only 30 percent of Wilson’s contributions this election cycle have come from South Carolina and the amounts brought in from some other states is staggering given Wilson’s past history:
- Wilson has received $84,660 from California supporters this cycle;
- He’s gotten $82,192 from Texas contributors; and
- He’s pulled in $76,295 from Florida addresses.
The last two are particularly telling because in 2008 Wilson got just $250 from Texas and $2,500 from Florida. In other words, his little outburst has helped him boost his earnings in those two states alone from $2,750 to $158,487. That’s nearly $79,250 for each word of “You lie!” or $26,414 per letter.
Who knew a government official could get that kind of return?
Snarkiness aside, the fact that rude comments appear to boost financial support for politicians is troubling.
As the Battle Creek Enquirer recently put it: “Inflammatory rhetoric may help fill campaign coffers, but it does little to ensure sound government.”