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Anna Ray-Jones

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02/22/2011 04:54pm
Campaign Finance Reform: The necessity to take money out of the equation.

Campaign Finance Reform: The necessity to take money out of the equation.

by Mitchell Fillet, Professor, Economics & Finance
Rutgers Business School, Newark, N.J.07102

Every election cycle, it seems that people try to define the one characteristic of the various candidates that sets them apart from the competition. Actually, this answer seems pretty obvious. It is their ability to raise money. As candidates rise in the pre-election polls, money pours in. These funds are used to broaden out the campaign apparatus with a real focus on media advertising. Not only does the candidate “approve this ad”. They would like to approve hundreds more just like it. The more they spend the more votes they reach. It is a simple and time-tested process in America.

Unfortunately, this means that many solid candidates with important messages and timely and necessary points of view get left in the dust of the money wars that have come to define electioneering in America. It’s a little like being the fastest sprinter in the race, but starting 10 yards behind the competition. You cannot possibly win.

But wait, this is nothing new. In 1907 Teddy Roosevelt recommended public financing of Federal elections and a ban on private contributions. This is a great idea. It would really help elect the most qualified person and not the person who is best at “MoneyBall”.

The FEC (Federal Election Commission) plays a very important role in insuring the peaceful and orderly transaction from party to party and elected official to elected official. They were the entity that oversaw the embarrassment known as the “hanging chad” issue in Florida during Bush/Gore in 2004. They oversee the enforcement of The Presidential Election Campaign Fund Act and the distribution of Primary Matching Funds. In this later instance, the Federal Government will give a person campaigning for nomination as their party’s candidate for President millions of dollars of funding if they meet certain reasonable and relatively low standards of performance, such as raising $ 5,000 from individuals in at least 20 states in the Union. We have the ability to contribute to this fund by a “check off” on your tax form. The contribution limit is now $ 3 per individual or $ 6 if filing a joint return.

Whatever progress in campaign finance reform that was made, has recently been overturned by The Supreme Court of The United States. In their decision in Citizens United versus The FEC, the Court ruled that corporations and labor unions can use their own funds to pay for ads and other campaign expenses independent of spending limits. This recent ruling just makes it that much easier for these large and well-funded organizations to back or even create a winner in elections where they will want to or need to have access and influence.

We can stop the madness. The Los Angeles Times estimated that over $ 2 Billion was spent in the 2008 election cycle, from the Presidential campaign on down. President Obama raised and spent the better part of $ 250,000,000 just to get the nomination of his party. What a waste of resources.

So here is the solution. Listen to Teddy Roosevelt !

Have all elections financed by the Federal Government. Set the campaign finance limits by population, so the mayoral campaign for Billings, Montana will get less funding then the mayoral campaign for New York City. Make funding fraud a Federal offense, so no new condos on the beach as campaign headquarters. Substantially raise the campaign donation limits to $ 5,000 pr individual and $ 10,000 for joint filers. Let their donations go to The Federal Campaign Fund and be tax credits, and not to the candidates themselves. No private funding of public elections. None. That means especially you Mr. Lobbyist and you, Mr. Union Official.

Stop the waste of our financial resources. Elect the most qualified individual.
Do it now !!.


campaign finance, politics, elections, federal election commission
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