Campaign Finance Reform


"Arizona is one of six states where voters have approved "clean election" laws that provide public funds for candidates who agree to accept no special-interest money. Candidates like it because they no longer have to spend endless hours kissing corporate butts... and it works...

"This has infuriated those who were used to buying their lawmakers and running things. So assorted corporate interests have put up hundreds of thousands of dollars to put a constitutional amendment on the Arizona ballot this fall to ban the use of public funds for clean elections" (Jim Hightower. The hightower Lowdown, June 2004:4).


"Political advertising is a major revenue source for corporate media. That is why the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is one of the main lobby groups working against campaign finance reform in this country" (Phillips, Peter, and Project Censored. Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Stories. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003: 28).


Three Campaign Reform Myths

"1. the myth that reform won't work because big money will always get around any laws... Since McCain-Feingold went into effect... it has -- contrary to many media stories -- worked well. The new legislation has accomplished two goals, both fairly modest: 1) breaking the connection between soft money special interest donors, the national parties, and federal candidates by banning the parties and candidates from raising soft money; and 2) stopping the use of soft money to broadcast sham issue ads that attack candidates shortly before the election. (Unfortunately, there was no congressional will for more fundamental reforms, such as public financing).

"Opponents predicted that big money would find a way around the new law... They were wrong. No longer are the national parties and federal candidates raising soft money...

"..eliminating soft money has been good for the political parties. It has forced them to raise money from average Americans...

"Both major parties can and are thriving on smaller donations from regular Americans; they don't need big special interest soft money...

"Both parties will be stronger... The parties actually will have to listen to average Americans' concerns. They no longer will hear just the loud voices of the powerful few...

"2. ..contribution limits just hurt challengers, at a time when we desperately need to end incumbent entrenchment... The opposite, however, is true -- limits aid challengers.

"A comprehensive study by U.S. Public Interest Research Group, which looked at 35,000 election results over 20 years in 45 states, found contribution limits decreased the margin of victory of incumbents. The study also found that the lower the contribution limits, the smaller the incumbents' margin of victory.

"Limits help challengers because it's incumbents, not challengers, who are most likely to get lots of big donations. Only incumbents are in a position to provide big donors legislative favors. Big donations to challengers are, after all, a poor investment because the odds are that incumbents will win...

"If no limits actually helped challengers, then Texas should be a national model of competitive elections. But -- surprise! -- we stink. We ranked 5th among the states in the widest average margin of victory, 47th in having the fewest number of candidates per race, and 5th in incumbent re-election rates (97 percent)... Incumbent Texas legislators outraised their challengers more than 9 to 1. The old Soviet politburo had more competition than the Texas Legislature...

"3. the constitutional canard that money equals speech... [the myth that] campaign reform infringes on free speech... Contributions, the [Supreme] Court has said, do not constitute speech by donors... the public interest in democracy overrides the quite marginal free speech interests of a very few donors giving unlimited contributions.

"Democracy is one person, one vote, not one dollar, one vote. It's rule by the people, not rule by the rich and powerful.

"Legislators today hear only the siren songs of insurance companies, utilities, polluters, and other powerful interests that want at your wallet. We need to enact reform... Join us... at www.cleanuptexaspolitics.com" (Fred Lewis. "Three Campaign Reform Myths." Texas Observer, 7/30/04: 8, 10).


"...the Supreme Court has upheld the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), better known as the McCain-Feingold law... (the joke in the cloakrooms is that BCRA stands for "Before Campaigning, Retain an Attorney")... All BCRA does is end the raising and spending of unlimited soft-money donations by federal party committees and candidates running for federal office and constrain the financing of some ads aimed at helping or hurting candidates...

"..now Congress ought to deal with the fact that the remaining system of financing campaigns is grossly unfair and unrepresentative" ("The New Money Game." The Nation, Jan. 5, 2004: 4).


""Neighborhoods comprised mostly of people of color are severely underrepresented in the campaign finance system," says the report. "Given that money typically determines who wins political races, this means that these neighborhoods are effectively disenfranchised... Yet nearly one out of three adult Americans is a person of color...

"Washington responds to campaign donors first, and voters second. The concerns of ordinary Americans cannot compare with the wealthy executive...

"This corporate model of governance is evident in the Bush Administration's repeated rhetorical conflation of Halliburton with America itself... as though Halliburton were serving a public trust, or as though it were an arm of the government" (Patricia J. Williams. "Money, Money, Money." The Nation, Jan.5, 2004: 10).


Colby Glass, MLIS