Money Ain't Everything

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Hey, so you know what makes a good campaign? In the eyes of Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics (affiliated with the Center for Title Redundancy) it's money, money, money! At least, so his editorial in The Hill today would indicate. He does a jig on the grave of presidential public financing and cheers a future where money dominates politics.

An electoral system in which the wealthiest one-tenth of one percent of the population gives the majority of money to candidates and thereby controls who may run a viable campaign for office is one which we should cheer:

Instead of bemoaning the record-setting fundraising by presidential candidates, we ought to celebrate the return of well-funded campaigns with the resources to communicate their message to voters.

Ah, yes -- more 30 second sound-byte TV commercials that take the place of communicating with voters directly about their concerns; more time taken up by high-dollar campaign fundraisers; more doubt among voters about whether candidates indeed have their best interests at heart. By all means, break open the champagne.

I suppose what I'm most disturbed by in this piece is the vigor with which Parnell defends money and the spending of it as a vehicle of political speech to the exclusion of actual, broader public speech -- something which Clean Elections systems encourage.

When only candidates with access to money are able to mount a competitive campaign, speech is far from free. Rather, the issues debated in a public forum are restricted to those which are of concern to candidates who appeal to wealthy donors. Clean Elections allow candidates from a broader variety of backgrounds to have the resources to run for office and speak up about the concerns of voters whose voices have not been heard.

Candidates themselves are increasingly critical of the enormous amount of time they must spend fundraising, and voters are increasingly concerned that their elected officials no longer listen to them which is why nearly three quarters of voters support a Clean Elections model of public financing. Rather than tucking a treatise in favor of big money politics behind lofty First Amendment arguments, Mr. Parnell would do well to listen to the lawmakers and voters who want a change.