By Rep. Bob Roses
June 27, 2007
Using the phrase "clean elections" accomplishes two things.
First, it gets past the unpopular and socialist-inspired notion of taxpayer dollars paying for politicians to run for elective offices. Beyond that, it implies that anything less than the desired result, "clean elections," is dirty. And, by implication, if you are opposed to "clean elections," you must be for dirty ones.
I have a problem with this.
For one thing, we are talking about political campaigns, not elections. Our Division of Elections runs exceedingly clean elections, probably more so than in any other state in the union. To imply that Alaska needs a new state law to ensure "clean elections" is a slap in the face of the many competent workers at the Division of Elections over the years.
Liberals have advocated for many years that the government should take over financing political campaigns. In my view, the not-so-hidden agendas of the groups and individuals who advocate for public financing of campaigns fall into several broad categories.
They don't like to have to compete for funds. They don't feel comfortable asking others to give. They think they will have to compromise their belief system or principles to accept money from some contributors. They believe that things are just better when they are publicly funded. They believe that equal amounts of campaign funds would level the playing field and equalize candidates, as if this will also equalize personalities, the candidates' respective levels of energy and enthusiasm, their ability to inspire and motivate campaign volunteers, etc.
Candidates who have full heads of hair have been shown to have an advantage over those who are bald. Is this something we should equalize by requiring shaved heads or wigs on all candidates?
In my view, it would be far and away better for the state to stop trying to limit and police contributors, which is a form of free speech, and instead require immediate reporting of all contributions. Our current system of reporting for public review isn't complete until well after the election.
The technological capabilities available today would ensure complete transparency of campaign contributions, so that any voter could know immediately, and absolutely, before voting, who was contributing to whom. They could draw their own conclusions and vote.
In other words, the voter should be able to see if an oil field service company had contributed money to candidate A, and a political action committee had contributed an equal amount to candidate B, but all of candidate C's contributions were from different supporters and all under $50.
I don't think the Alaska public is as concerned with who the contributors are as much as they are concerned about who is trying to hide contributions and why they are hiding them.
Clean campaigns must start with clear, total and accurate reporting of all contributions. It is far more difficult to accurately track contributions through PACs than individuals. Is there a limit on how many PACs to which an individual can contribute? No. A contributor can exceed the allowable amount for an individual by contributing just below the reporting level to multiple PACs that then donate to a candidate. So how does the public know who really contributed?
Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell will soon be deciding on whether or not to approve an initiative on this issue. I think he should turn it down, as it would unconstitutionally result in appropriating funds from the state treasury. At the very least, if he does approve it, he should disallow its sponsors from referring to it as "clean elections." Truth in government would require it to be called, "State funding of political campaigns." Let the public know what is really at stake.
Rep. Bob Roses
Received June 27, 2007 - Published June 27, 2007
About: Rep. Bob Roses is a member of the 25th Alaska State Legislaure representing House District 19 - Anchorage.
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