It’s not just a political reality that you must be rich to run for president. It’s state policy, too.
Indeed, Secretary of State Alex Padilla is defending the premise that one must be rich to get on the ballot for president in California. That may sound like a peculiar stance for a rising progressive politician, a champion of the poor and warrior against inequality, but Padilla is even making this case in court.
Specifically, Padilla’s office is defending in federal courts a requirement that presidential candidates need to collect nearly 200,000 signatures in 105 days to make the ballot here. In today’s signature gathering environment, that’s a $1 million fee.
The case, which I learned about via the college of the indispensable Ballot Access News, involves a challenge by a would-be candidate, Rocky De La Fuente. A crucial argument is that only Ross Perot has successfully used this procedure in the past 30 years. And he was a rich guy. Significant presidential candidates, notably Ralph Nader and Evan McMullin, were unable to qualify under this high standard.
According to Ballot Access News, judges of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, remarked on how this favors the rich. “Maybe it’s time to let a poor candidate run,” said one judge. Getting on the ballot for statewide races is much easier: about 7,000 signatures. That should be the standard for presidential candidates too.
Unless of course, the purpose of the rule is to make sure only the rich can run.