By Craig Dunkerley
June 29, 2007
Representative Bob Roses raises several interesting points regarding
public financing of campaigns which voters in Maine and Arizona
dubbed "Clean Elections" and/or "Clean Money"
over 10 years ago. Voters there were tired of the pay-to-play
politics they saw in their states and wanted candidates to have
the option of financing their campaigns with impartial, no-favors-owed,
no-strings-attached (hence "Clean") money, supplied
by "we the people," to help insure the fairness and
integrity of their political process, regardless of what party
they belonged to.
First Rep. Roses refers to public financing systems as "socialist-inspired,"
presumably because they're publicly funded. But all other aspects
of our political process are publicly funded, up to and including
his salary, his office space, his staff, and all his office equipment,
not to mention the ballots, voting machines and other electoral
mechanisms which made his election to office possible. Is all
that "socialist" too? Last time I checked it was called
democracy. I submit that fair and impartial public elections,
of which campaigns are an integral part, are a public good, essential
to a functional republic, which entirely justifies the miniscule
investment necessary to fund political campaigns (usually from
$3.00 to $10.00 a year per voter).
Next he ascribes a number of motives to supporters of public
financing, most of which are simply incorrect. He says we don't
like asking others for money or competing for funds. Neither
is true since successful public financing systems all require
candidates who choose to participate to qualify for public funding...by
ASKING a required number of voters in their own district to make
small qualifying contributions (typically $5) and sign accompanying
petitions, while COMPETING with any other candidates who want
to represent that same district. Then he says we fear that candidates
may compromise their political beliefs or positions if they're
dependent on private money to fund their campaigns. I'm tempted
to say "DUH!" But in fairness to his assertion I submit
that most candidates who become financially viable do so because
the special interests that support them CHOSE them precisely
because they were already sympatheitc to their agenda...which
means candidates who don't share the agenda of wealthy special
interest donors are never heard from. Lastly he says we think
public funding will help level the financial playing field but
that we ignore all the other ways in which candidates are not
equal. We don't ignore all these other aspects or even suggest
they should somehow be equalized. The FINANCIAL playing field
is the only one we seek to level. After that each candidate has
to sink or swim on their own merits.
His suggested alternative to public financing -- more immediate
disclosure of who contributed to whom -- is fine as an additional
reform but it doesn't get to the core problem: the inherent conflict
of interest that exists when our PUBLIC officials are dependent
on PRIVATE money for their political survival. As we've seen
in the 30 years of disclosure laws since the Watergate era, all
these disclosures tell us (assuming anyone ever bothers to search
them out and read them) is who bought who this time...when all
voters really want to know is that no one bought anyone...which
is exactly what public financing of campaigns has proven to do.
Well crafted public financing systems have proven to work in
Arizona and Maine over the last decade with candidates of all
political persuasions participating more and more with each election
cycle. The courts have repeatedly ruled that they're constitutional.
And they're unbelievably inexpensive to fund (in the long run
they pay for themselves many times over). If citizens are tired
of the overbearing influence of big money and instead want government
accountable to voters, and if they'd rather have elections that
were about who has the best ideas instead of who can raise the
most money, then public financing of campaigns is the proven
solution and should be pursued in earnest.
Call Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell right now and urge him to approve
the proposed initiative.
San Jose, CA
Received June 28, 2007 - Published
June 29, 2007
About: "I am a small business
man, and Southbay Coordinator of the California Clean Money Campaign."
All Contributions More Important than Their Sources By Rep.
Bob Roses - Alaska
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