Should Political Contributions Be Limited? Large Gifts by Interest Groups Corrupt Candidates and Elections

Article excerpt

While the voters around the country sent Washington a clear message for change on Nov. 8, voters in Missouri went a step further by enacting tough new limits on campaign contributions for our state's political candidates. In an unprecedented showing of public support, the campaign-finance package known as Proposition A was approved by a margin of 3 to 1.

Not surprisingly, within a couple of weeks of its adoption, supporters of the status quo ran to the courthouse to overturn the measure. Until the new limits get a full hearing sometime next month, a federal court has temporarily set them aside. As two of the primary sponsors of Proposition A, our organizations intend to hold politicians accountable to the limits enacted by the voters, regardless of the outcome of the court proceedings.

Many of our politicians are marching several steps behind the citizens when it comes to cleaning up the political process. Citizens know that the growing need for campaign cash and large political contributions are corrupting both our elections and the legislative process. Politicians, particularly incumbents who benefit most from the current system, have been blind to the need for fundamental change.

A look at some of the so-called "reform" proposals put forward by many state legislatures and Congress only proves that you can't trust politicians to clean up their own act. The members of our groups - the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and United We Stand America-Missouri - realized that if we wanted fundamental change, we had to do it ourselves - through the initiative process.

The voters of Missouri were not alone in using a ballot initiative to enact $100 limits on campaign contributions. In November, voters in Oregon and Montana also set contribution limits at $100 for legislative offices. The initiatives in those two states were approved by overwhelming margins as well.

In Colorado, a coalition of reform groups placed a $100 limit proposal on the ballot; it was defeated in a close contest after a committee of lobbyists and special interest groups spent more than $1 million to stop it.

And in the shadow of Congress in 1992, the voters of Washington, D.C., enacted a $100 limit for local races. Those limits have dramatically changed the way politicians campaign in the district. …