Political Campaigns Must Be Cleaned Up Public Financing with Limits on Spending Would Be Effective Reform

Article excerpt

By the close of the recent election campaign, all the evidence indicated that Americans are more disgusted with our current campaign finance system than ever before. That's quite a statement, when you think about it.

Just two years ago, close to three-quarters of Missouri voters signaled their disgust - and their demand for a thorough, system-wide reform - by voting for a ballot proposition that imposed strict limits on campaign contributions. The proposition also set up a Commission on Fair Elections to examine further steps to complete the job of comprehensive reform.

Since then, the limits on contributions set out in Proposition A have been thrown out by the courts. The commission's recommendations for systemic reform have been largely ignored by all but a handful of Missouri politicians. After these events, and a campaign that saw a corrosive flood of campaign money that was unprecedented in our nation's history, citizens are more determined than ever to clean up the campaign finance mess. More and more observers have concluded that a clean elections system - in which candidates trade voluntary limits on campaign spending, and a pledge to accept no private contributions, for full public financing of their campaigns - offers the best hope of restoring our democratic process. Such a system would limit spending and eliminate most private, special interest contributions. It would free public officeholders from the never-ending money chase and allow average citizens to enter the political process and run for office. Because it is based on public-funding incentives rather than regulation of contributions and spending, it is likely to survive in the courts. One major question remains about the public financing approach. Will the public accept it? Some commentators believe Americans aren't ready to see public money go to politicians' campaigns. Election results in several states prove that reform may be closer than many think. Across the nation, ballot issues implementing different types of campaign reform continued an unbroken string of successes. …

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