It’s primary season. After three weeks of letting our mail-in ballots sit on the kitchen counter, my husband and opened them up last night and sat down to figure out who gets our votes. Most of the spots only had one person on the ballot, so it wasn’t that tough. But the US Congress seat for our district is hotly contested right now. We have three people vying for a spot on the November ballot. I went to their websites and read their positions on the various issues. They were all very similar, and since this is a primary for my party, they were all pretty much in line with my own views. I’ve never met any of the candidates personally, but on paper they all looked equal. Then I went to Open Secrets to see what they had to say. I looked at how much money each candidate had raised, and where it had come from. One guy had kicked in $3.6 million of his own money so far. The other two had spent less than $15K of their own money. Of those two, one had a much large share of funds coming from political action committees, whereas the third guy had the majority of his money coming from individual donors. (He also had the least amount of money spent on the campaign so far). Now obviously I can’t check and see every individual donor making up the more than a million dollars he’s raised. I’m sure some are total douche bags. But most of them are probably just people like me, who just know more about this candidate than I do. After about two hours on the internet checking out the he-said, she-said stories about these three candidates, I ended up voting for the guy with the least amount of campaign finance coming from PACs and himself. There were lots of little reasons, including the finance issues. Campaign finance blows – it’s a vicious circle of needing money, getting it from wherever you can, and then being beholden to the folks who gave it to you, whether you like it or not.
I think that private donations to political campaigns are a bad idea. It creates an inherent “strings attached” scenario that is hard to get around, even for the most ethical of politicians. I think that all campaign finance should be public funds, with a candidate having to gather a certain amount of signatures in order to get on board – and then everyone should have the same amount of financing to work with (no self-financing allowed). I’ve noticed that for the last couple months, we’ve been bombarded with advertising for the guy who had spend $3.6 million of his own money. But I had never heard of the guy I ended up voting for until I opened my ballot last night. Their ideas for change and leadership are very similar, but the rich guy is almost certainly going to get elected, simply because he’s got the funds to get his name out there in front of people. Good thing I’m not running for office… to me the $11,000 in personal funds that my guy has spent seems like a fortune!