An arresting collection of revisionist essays that (despite what will strike most readers as a surfeit of donnish baggage) put a fresh spin on Tip O'Neill's dictum that money is the mother's milk of politics. Drawing on a wealth of previously ignored data on the financing of presidential campaigns, Ferguson (coauthor of Right Turn, 1986, etc.) offers provocative perspectives on realpolitik informed by what he calls investment theory. In brief, he concludes that it is not voters who form the lifeblood of American political parties but rather powerful blocs of business elites with durable (largely economic) interests. Among other advantages, they have the resources to master issues and the financial means to invest in the election of candidates prepared to keep the ship of state on courses of their choosing. Since political action in the US has become so expensive, Ferguson argues, well-heeled elites set agendas and influence deliberations and debate: ""Everyone else watches on TV,"" he notes. Employing anecdotal as well as statistical evidence drawn from the past two centuries (including the 1994 contest that gave the Republicans control of Congress), the author makes a persuasive case for the sardonic observation that those who control the gold rule. Cases in point range from the willingness of internationally minded industrialists and Wall Streeters to support FDR, through the reasons why realty groups cut their contributions to conservative Democrats during the 1980s (mainly because the cities and infrastructure projects had to compete with the Pentagon for federal dollars). Citing Ross Perot, Ferguson asserts that ""with enough money, candidates can pole vault over the whole rotting structure of party politics in America...."" As a card-carrying academic, the author feels obliged to deconstruct the hypotheses of rival scholars, frequently in excruciating detail. This considerable cavil apart, a genuinely original and disturbingly convincing interpretation of what underlies vox populi. Helpful graphs and tabular material throughout.