2010-02-26 / Editorial/Opinion

Need New Law To Limit Campaign Spending

Recent polls show that eight out of ten Americans of both parties oppose a recent Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend as much as they want on political campaigns. Those same polls show that the great majority of Americans want to limit political spending by large, powerful and rich organizations that could sway an election by producing millions of dollars worth of advertising for favorite candidates. It does not take a seer to understand how a bought and paid for candidate could win a congressional election simply on the strength of his sponsor’s spending proclivity. That is why campaign spending rules were passed in the first place. The concept of “one man, one vote” is essential to democracy and taking all controls off campaign spending could easily corrupt that idea. Recently, two Senators, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, introduced a bill that would constitute the first step towards restoring some rationality on campaign spending. The bill, called the Fair Elections Now Act, would allow federal candidates to run without relying on large contributions, big money bundlers, or donations from lobbyists; and would free them from constant fundraising in order to focus on serving constituents. Under the proposed law, candidates who voluntarily participated in the program would raise a large amount of money through small contributions from constituents, none more than $100. Candidates for the House of Representatives would have to collect 1,500 contributions from the people of their own state and raise a total of $50,000 to qualify. A Senate candidate would have to raise a set amount of small contributions amounting to a total of ten percent of the primary Fair Elections funding. In return, qualified House candidates get $900,000 in campaign funding from the act, to be split between the primary and general elections. In addition, the small donation total would be matched dollar for dollar. Qualified candidates would also get a reduced cost on television advertising and $100,000 in media vouchers. We think that the new law is a good step in the right direction, even though it is voluntary. It is clear from the Supreme Court’s decision that any mandatory law limiting campaign spending would be ruled as unconstitutional, and therefore a voluntary law would seem to be the way to proceed.

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