Wednesday, May 22, 2013

City Council & Campaign Reform - 1

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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.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Michael for supporting campaign reform. I agree the amount of money to run a competitive campaign in Sunnyvale makes it a very expensive choice for the average resident without accepting donations large companies or groups