The City Council voted 4-3 tonight (May 21, 2013) against my proposal
(not original to me, I assure you) that the City provide matching funds
for those who promise not to spend more than a certain amount (I
suggested $20,000 total, up to half matching funds). It was a proposal
to put it on the ballot this November, along with some related issues to
reward and encourage (you can't require) candidates to limit their
expenditures. That it was one vote short of passing suggests we might
get campaign finance reform next year. I hope it will be a campaign
issue this November. Voting for it were Meyering, Whittum, and Moylan.
Those with lots of money can drown out most
voices but I disagree that the $ amounts in Sunnyvale are piddly.
This is a small electorate and with a few small campaign contributions
from average citizens'
contributions and the candidate's own
money, it is hard to go above raising $10,000. That pays for maybe one
cheap copy paper flyer and some yard signs. In this small pond, $50,000
is overwhelming, in terms of the number of mailers and glossy flyers. I
can see spending $10,000 of your own money like Pat Meyering and Dave
Whittum did, but very few could convince themselves (and their spouse)
to spend $50,000 of their own money.
Over $110K like
Mayor Spitaleri raised is essentially buying the election. Most people
will decide not to run against that kind of money, and we are all left
with fewer candidates to choose from.
I am only too aware of the problems with "independent" PACs spending more but we should "not let the best be the enemy of the good."
The proposal is modeled on the public $ matching laws for the US
Presidency. Steven Colbert has had a lot of fun and made some very
serious points showing how the "Citizen's United" decision by the
Supremes let large amounts of unattributable money in. Nothing can stop
that short of a constitutional amendment which is what the Democratic
Party platform of 2012 proposed.
This proposal would only begin
to even the field, not achieve perfection. Candidates could decide not
to limit themselves as both Romney and Obama didn't this last campaign.
The claim by Obama campaign is that the amounts Romney wanted to spend
were so huge that it would have been suicidal for Obama to agree to it.
Both raised record amounts of money, but the amounts that the 501(c)
PACs spent were essentially useless after the primaries.