Make It Happen

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Cabell Brand is a Virginia businessman and a longtime anti-poverty activist and he's written a strong editorial in the Roanoke Times in support of full public financing of campaigns at the federal level as outlined in the Fair Elections Now Act. He argues that every issue we grapple with has a money in politics angle, and only when we address that angle can we make real policy change.

Here's an extended excerpt from his piece. He hits the nail right on the head:


If I could change one thing in our democratic political system it would be public financing of federal political campaigns for Congress and the president.

It's not just our road infrastructure that is deteriorating, but the funds for environmental issues, education, job training, student loans, national parks, investment in scientific research and so on. It's not immediately obvious how these problems directly relate to campaign contributions. But they do.

Getting the money out of politics would not get rid of the lobbyists, but it would reduce their effect on our legislation. Not making the politicians dependent on campaign contributions would let our elected representatives think more about the problems of the middle class, health care, low-income people and our country's infrastructure.

[. . .]

Let's take the money out of politics and start a new movement toward public financing of federal political campaigns. Let's give our legislators an opportunity to develop realistic public policies.

The single biggest reason for public financing of federal political campaigns is that it would attract more qualified people into our political system. They would not be concerned with raising money. They could concentrate on getting support from our voting constituents.

With the increased press profile of campaign finance issues, and the prominent position public financing has enjoyed in the Presidential debates, it's interesting to place this editorial alongside this one, from Ruth Marcus at the Washington Post chiding the Democratic presidential field for not, in part, showing enough action on public financing proposals. Marcus is right to demand that candidates back up their talk with action, and Brand's editorial perfectly illustrates why: this isn't just an issue of candidates not looking "pure enough" but of voters asking whether the person they send to the White House will have the freedom to act on their behalf, or whether they will be beholden to the will of their largest campaign contributors.