Bob Bernick Jr. acknowledges he feels like he's going out on a limb with this editorial in support of full public financing campaign. Bernick is writing in Utah's Deseret News, a paper that has covered its share of money in politics/lobbyists/corruption stories so this seems like a logical progression in their exploration of the topic, but Bernick has dim hopes about support in the state, and in Congress, for public financing.
Bernick lays out the problems -- expensive campaigns, special interest money, the primacy of wealth, and the entrenched incumbency privately financed campaigns helps along.
Bernick hasn't always been a believer in public financing, but now he sees it as the best way out of a bad situtation:
Can we level the rich man's campaigning advantage?
Can we change the campaign finance systems to let low- or moderate-income people run successfully for office?
Can we get special interest/lobbyist money out of campaigning?
We can take one big step — public financing of congressional and state races.
I can almost hear the protest screaming. What? Now you want us to use taxpayer money, our hard-earned money, to pay for these guys' campaign ads, for their radio and TV commercials? You have to be nuts?
Hey, when I first started writing about politics 30 years ago, I was with you. I was strongly against public financing of campaigns. But watching the current system work over the years, I've changed.
Some of the most important decisions made for us are being made by people stuck in a money-corrupting campaign finance system — both federal and state.
Unfortunately, Bernick isn't too hopeful about the chances of Congress passing public financing legislation. As it happens, we're closer than we've ever been to doing just that -- the Fair Elections Now Act has bipartisan support in the Senate, a House version of this landmark public financing legislation is slated for introduction shortly, and one way or the other our next President will have been on the record in support of public financing of elections (though McCain has only supported it at the state level). Winning public financing of congressional elections is a tough fight for sure, but Bernick should take heart in the progress we're seeing.