Archive for Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Money, politics

The ability to finance a campaign has become an overwhelming issue for many would-be candidates.

February 6, 2007


Much is being said these days about the cost of running a U.S. presidential campaign. It may be that more candidates will be involved in primary races in 2008 than at any other time in this nation's history.

When an individual announces he or she is entering the race, one of the first things mentioned is the need to raise many millions of dollars to have any chance of remaining in the race through a sufficient number of primary elections.

These figures are in the tens of millions of dollars; in some cases as much as $100 million. One of the strengths of the Hillary Clinton campaign is the large war chest she brings into the race.

The need for money to run a successful campaign isn't limited to presidential races. U.S. Senate and House contests, along with gubernatorial battles, are becoming increasingly costly. Such campaigns may not hit $50 million or $100 million, but, depending on the states involved, they easily can go over $10 million, $20 million or even $40 million.

Where does this money come from?

Doesn't it make sense that people usually give money for a reason: to help fund a civic project, to help build a new school building or playground, to fund a hospital expansion or to fight a particular illness such as cancer or heart disease?

In politics, the same reasoning applies. People give money because they want to encourage someone to enter a race, knowing they will have enough money to make a reasonable bid to be elected. The donor may believe the candidate he or she supports stands for the "right" things and gives money without any strings being attached. However, people usually want something in return when they are investing heavily in some project, and this is particularly true in politics.

Do the candidates who need millions and millions of dollars actually think they can accept contributions of $500,000, $1 million, $5 million or more without the donor expecting something in return?

Something needs to be done about campaign financing. It takes money to run a campaign, and it is important that good men and women are encouraged to seek public office. Unfortunately, the money factor is one reason many individuals decide to bypass a candidacy and leave the political battles to others. Too often, individuals enter a race for selfish or questionable motives.

The money figures being tossed around these days for the presidential race are staggering, and, quite possibly, the numbers being mentioned are lower than what actually will be spent by the Democratic and Republican finalists by the end of their presidential campaigns.

There's no easy answer. Maybe curtailing the length of campaigns, enforcing existing fundraising rules or some other action would help alleviate the financial pressures on candidates. Something needs to be done to address this unhealthy situation. There is far too much room for corruption, and the present price tag keeps many well-qualified individuals from seeking office.


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