Friday, December 16, 2005


> Just using this TAPPED article to bring up a counter-intuitive point about campaign finance.

A SCANDAL-RIDDEN WEEK. It hasn’t been a good week for Republican candidates, a surprising number of whom are now beset with some serious campaign finance scandals. Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, who has pressed for stricter campaign finance regulations and who has pledged not to accept any money from the Republican Party, is now under investigation for some questionable work done on her behalf by her chief of staff. In Oregon, election officials have launched an investigation into some serious discrepancies that have been found in the finance reports filed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Mannix, who has also served as the state’s party chairman. One the more serious accusations that Mannix faces is the issue of a $45,000 loan that he made to his campaign that was later listed as a direct contribution. Conservative Jim Oberweis, who claims to be the best qualified candidate to clean up the Illinois state government, is refusing to return a $20,000 contribution from a businessman whose PACs are known to be campaign-finance violators. Meanwhile, Senator Conrad Burns of Montana has decided not to return donations given to him by the scandal-plagued lobbyist Jack Abramoff, because, well, the money is already gone. Mind you, all of these stories broke within the last week.

Perhaps these Republicans would be better off if they avoided fundraising in the first place and just followed the example set by former Democratic Senator William Proximire, who purportedly spent only $145.10 on his 1982 re-election bid which he won with 64 percent of the vote. Unlikely, but wouldn’t that be nice.

Just using this article to bring up a counter-intuitive point about campaign finance. Large sums of money funding election campaigns make them more competitive, not less. Of course an incumbent could win when only spend $145 – and incumbent has so many other advantages after all. If every single campaign only that trivial advertising, the incumbent’s edge in Congress would solidify.

It’s a sad fact that American voters based on commercials and consultants, which require gobs of money, and not solely policy-positions and somber newspaper editorials. But once we accept that fact, and keeping in mind that it is desirable to have competitive elections for democracy to work, then we want both sides to be relatively equally armed.

The trouble of course is that while equal sums of money help a challenger more than an incumbent, it’s easier for an incumbent to get large sums of money (if you believe the appearance of corruption in modern culture). Those in power have a lot to offer that those out of power do not. But that’s where parties step in: they provide the money for candidates for no reason other than their sheer competitiveness. Presuming both parties have relatively equal money, party funds are a radically leveling factor between an incumbent Democrat and a challenging Republican, or vice-versa. And that leveling is necessary.

So you are presented with a choice, between the corruption necessary to get a lot of money, and the competitiveness that a lot of money brings.


Post a Comment

<< Home