The fate of a multitude of proposed constitutional amendments, as well as the next state governor and senator, will be determined in next week’s 2010 midterm elections.
Among them is Amendment 1, which would repeal the 1998 measure that allowed candidates to receive government funds to compete with the campaign spending of their opponents. Considering recent levels of unprecedented campaign spending by wealthy candidates and anonymous donors, that provision should be expanded to include all candidates rather than repealed.
When Rick Scott entered the Republican primary race for governor, he did so as a complete outsider. However, $50 million of Scott’s fortune earned in the health care industry bought the ethically challenged candidate a shot at leading the state, according to CNN.
Why did Scott spend $50 million on a chance to become Florida’s next governor, a job that pays around $130,000? It’s not because he’s fiscally irresponsible, though a $1.7 billion fine – the largest in U.S. history – paid by his Columbia Hospital Corporation speaks for itself.
It’s because you can buy power in America.
Worse is the fact that an unprecedented amount of funds from anonymous donors are pouring into the coffers of candidates around the country. This is due in part to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which removed limitations on election spending by corporations.
Major corporations can donate an unlimited amount of money to political action committees (PAC), which in turn spend that money on ads. Naturally, PACs aren’t required to disclose their donors to the public, creating vicious attack ads bankrolled by anonymous sources.
The problem is painfully obvious in Illinois’ Senate race, where anonymous donors are swaying the race in favor of the Republican candidate. Outside groups have spent $5.8 million against Democrat Alexi Giannoulias and only about $20,000 to support him, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Rampant and unaccountable campaign spending is corrupting our democracy. It essentially makes officeholders accountable to corporations, special interests and anonymous donors rather than average citizens.
Instead of ending the public finance of election campaigns, voters should embrace it.
Imagine if all candidates for public office had to use a fixed amount of public funds for campaigns. It would place every campaign on an even playing field and candidates would succeed or fail based on qualifications alone. Best of all, politicians would be accountable only to taxpayers, the average citizens whom they are supposed to serve.
Campaign financing is a broken system that needs to be fixed, but Amendment 1 is a step in the wrong direction. Voters should say no to the amendment, and public campaign financing should be expanded in its place.
Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.