Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Answer to editorial on Clean Elections

Mr. Maurer and Keller from the Institute for Justice lay out the Libertarian position against publicly owned elections very well. But so much of their argument is based in outdated ideology, I just had to respond.

I question their definition of "special interest", and whether it applies to the Institute for Justice and/or to Washington Public Campaigns. I'm sitting in a meeting of the WPC group while I type this, and everyone around the table is focused on the community that our elected officials are trying to serve. Does that qualify them as a "special interest"? Special Interests, at least those that are vilified by all sides of the ideological debate, are lobbyists, groups and individuals that want special favors for themselves or their clients, and advocate for those special favors from the government. I do not see Washington Public Campaigns advocating for anything more than to open the electoral process to anyone who wants to represent their community.

"Traditional campaigns" are typically where candidates are distracted from their important work of listening to the people they are trying to represent and instead spend much of their time "dialing for dollars", trying to keep up with the other candidates in the "horse race", which is the primary object that our media uses to decide who to cover. Issues facing the community take a back seat to the monthly or quarterly financial reports of the campaigns. I don't want any more "traditional campaigns". I want campaigns that push forward candidates that will listen and represent the people in their community. Candidates for office who wish to "fill their campaign coffers" do so only because it is the only way to pay the outrageous expenses associated with running for office in the current media market. Advertising in newspapers, television, radio, and by mail is pushing the limits for anyone who wants to represent their neighbors in the important decisions that affect our lives.

Citizens shouldn't be distracted from the issues that they care about by the candidate asking them for money. With prices going up on everything else, being asked for money should be the last thing we hear from someone also asking for our vote.

Our tax dollars go to many programs that we as individuals disagree with, from both sides of the isle. Examples include the Iraq War, tax breaks for oil companies, welfare and social programs, the interest on the National Debt that we paid $400 Billion dollars toward last year. I would much rather pay a small amount of money to candidates that I wouldn't necessarily vote for through my taxes than have the people in office take so much more of my tax dollars for programs that I don't support because they only listen to the people who finance their campaigns.

Publicly funded campaigns are not financing candidates, as much as they are trying to ensure that the debates we are engaged in are truly fair and balanced. If laws are not enacted to ensure that the resources available to the various sides of the debate on where our community should go are balanced, the side that gets the most money also gets the most media exposure and is thus much more likely to win the election, whether or not it is in the best interest of the community. Let's have a serious debate on the issues, and stop letting money be such a distraction.

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