Coumn: Understanding the Incumbent Protection Act

The Incumbent Protection Act (IPA) is a term coined by conservatives for what is popularly known by the disillusioned liberals as campaign finance reform. The argument by supporters of this reform is that politics and the government have been corrupted by the mass amounts of money from the wealthy (those “evil” rich guys, oh no) being poured into the Democratic and Republican parties to influence government.

Politicians are spending the majority of their time fund-raising for their party, instead of doing their job. And that by ending this cycle of raising money that is called “soft-money,” our elected officials will actually be more responsive to the voters needs than they are now. In actuality, campaign finance reform will not have the end results of less “corrupt” government or a more responsive government that the disillusioned liberals say is the effect of such reform.

First things first, does anyone out there think that a group of people, any group, is going to make their job unnecessarily harder than it already is? No, of course not. Especially if they are a group of corrupt people, as many believe politicians are.

So one should ask the question, what is the catch behind campaign finance reform? Especially since this issue doesn’t really matter to the majority of Americans. Why is Congress so interested? The fact is simple, campaign finance reform favors incumbents over the challengers, that is why conservatives have coined finance reform as the Incumbent Protection Act.

How so?, you might be asking. Well, it is very simple. The number one goal of a political campaign is to get your candidate’s name known. No one is going to go vote for someone they don’t know. That is one reason why most third parties lack any major success. The candidate’s stance on the issues comes in second. If no one knows the candidate, then who cares about their issues. Currently the odds are stacked against the challenger of the incumbent from the beginning. But with the Incumbent Protection Act, the odds become worse. Parties will not be allowed to contribute money to their challengers in the beginning so they can get name recognition.

The money that parties raise is considered “soft-money,” which will be banned if the act is passed. Challengers will be forced to raise money by courting private contributions of up to $2,000 from citizens. Of course, since no one knows a challenger yet, who is going to give money to him? I hope he has nice relatives and neighbors.

The other major stinger that comes from the act is that political ads will be banned for 30 days before primaries and 60 before a general election. So if a challenger is successful at getting his initial contributions from mommy and daddy to getting the attention of his district, state and/or the nation, he will not be able to use the airwaves before elections.

One of the easiest ways to get known today is for a challenger to broadcast a political ad to his constituents. Even though most may consider some of these ads as really annoying (especially the ones against your candidate), they do get the candidate name recognition by non-donating voters, which is the name of the game.

In the end, if the act is passed and signed into law, politicians aren’t going to be any more responsive to their constituents. Especially now that they only need to be elected once, their re-elections will be pretty much guaranteed.

The only time an election will even be worth running is after a Congressman retires, of course that is if he doesn’t support one candidate over the other, throwing his good name onto someone else. It’s similar to what a vice president gets when he runs for president after his boss reaches his term limits.

  • Alex Hardman is a senior majoring in