Take Five

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USA Today offers up the top five reasons to support a Clean Elections public financing model for our elections. Dismayed by legislative foot-dragging on the subject of campaign finance, the paper makes the case against big money business as usual.

Here's why we need Clean Elections:

* Wretched excess. Candidates, the two major parties and the nominally "independent" groups allied with them are on track to raise and spend $5 billion or more in the 2008 campaign, far more than ever before. In Iowa alone, it's projected that Democrats will spend the equivalent of $300 a vote for each caucus participant who turns out on Jan. 3. That kind of money doesn't come just from upright civic-minded citizens.

* Wealth test. Both parties acknowledge that in recruiting candidates for congressional races, a major criterion is whether the prospect is rich enough to personally finance a campaign. That smells of reserving public office for the elite.

* Dialing for dollars. Members of Congress complain repeatedly that running for re-election is so costly that they have to spend up to one-third of their time "dialing for dollars." For challengers, it's worse.

* Fat cats. Despite all the stories about an Internet-powered rise in small contributors, just 21% of all presidential campaign contributions have been in donations of $200 or less, little change from previous years. Meanwhile, contributions are up 91% from donors linked to the securities and investment industries, 68% from the entertainment industry, and 47% from drug makers.

* Shady bundlers. The power of "bundlers," power brokers who aggregate individual donations into giant packages, continues to grow. Hillary Clinton has been embarrassed twice by such operators, one indicted on business fraud charges.