Taxpayer-funded political campaigns, also known as “clean elections” or “voter-owned elections,” are supposed to be the next wave of campaign finance “reform,” judging from the excitement and energy focused on these schemes from the “reform” community. Plying politicians with taxpayer cash is supposed to reduce campaign costs, end corruption, level the playing field, and generally put “the people” back in charge.
With their customary rhetorical restraint, “reformers” stop just short of promising that so-called “clean elections” will, to borrow from P.J. O’Rourke, “make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn.” I think I did hear them promise that shoveling taxpayer dollars into candidates’ campaign coffers would lead to a “puppy in every pot and a car in every garage” (I may have gotten the quote a little off, it may not have been a car).
Anyway, the state of Connecticut was the latest to be roped into this scam, offering welfare for politicians through a “clean elections” program for the first time in 2008. For your reading pleasure, the following is a letter to the editor in the Stamford Advocate reporting on the entirely predictable shortcomings and failures of “clean elections.”
To the editor:
During this past election cycle, a total of $4.2 million in taxpayer dollars were spent on state Senate races alone. The campaign finance reform law was intended to make races competitive, which was achieved in less than a third of all races. Only 11 of 36 total races were decided by a vote margin under 60 percent… The final result was that only one seat changed parties, a seat which was expected to change, with or without campaign finance laws.
The most disturbing aspect to the new campaign finance laws is that they allow candidates facing no opponent to collect funds at the expense of taxpayers… state Sen. Andrew McDonald of Stamford did [this] when he collected $24,000. Four other colleagues, including the Senate majority leader, collected a total of $105,000 to prop up their image absent a general election challenger.
…State Senator Toni Harp of New Haven… had a mediocre challenger, she was entitled to collected $85,000 in taxpayer dollars, which she did. Her race concluded with her taking 90 percent of the vote…
If this is the reform that the state legislature promised, then we have been shortchanged greatly…
I can’t add much to that…