Archive for Wednesday, November 12, 1997

POLITICAL PROS SKEPTICAL OF CAMPAIGN-FINANCE REFORM TALK

November 12, 1997

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It's easy to say campaign-finance reform is needed but hard for politicians to make it happen.

The vote was unanimous among three political insiders Tuesday asked whether campaign-finance reform was around the corner.

Reform is badly needed in this country, they said, but don't look for a majority in the Kansas Legislature or U.S. Congress to adopt changes that might foil their re-election.

"Remember who does the reforming," said Allan Cigler, professor of political science at Kansas University.

"Incumbents are not going to hurt themselves," said Topeka attorney John Frieden, who lost in a bid for Congress last year to U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Kan.

Even the reform minded politician agreed.

"We're not very anxious to right the wrongs that seem to be in existence in terms of campaign finance," said state Rep. Ralph Tanner, R-Baldwin.

The trio spoke to 50 people at a forum at Plymouth Congregational Church sponsored by the Lawrence Coalition for Peace and Justice and a half-dozen other local organizations.

Frieden said people tend to dismiss as sour grapes comments he makes about Ryun's victory. But Frieden continues to hit on one point: An influx of more than $100,000 from unidentified out-of-state sources paid for TV ads that undermined his slim lead over Ryun in the final week of the campaign.

"People can say almost anything about you, and you can't respond," Frieden said.

He said it would benefit Republicans and Democrats to amend campaign laws to require disclosure of independent expenditures.

Cigler said candidates accumulating huge campaign war chests threatened quality of government by discouraging potential challengers from stepping forward.

"Some of these elections have so much incumbent advantage that it's hardly an election," Cigler said.

He said keys should be increasing election competition, reducing power of special interests and decreasing the preoccupation with raising money. Public financing of campaigns -- at minimum providing a base amount for rivals -- would help, he said.

"Think less of limiting money ... and try to figure out what types of money are a little more wholesome," Cigler said.

Tanner said he worried about public cynicism regarding money in politics. In the Legislature, he said, only a few would sell their soul for cash. He said he isn't among them.

"If anybody thinks my vote is for sale for lunch, they're wrong."

-- Tim Carpenter's phone message number is 832-7155. His e-mail address is tim@ljworld.com.

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