By Bradley A. Smith
There are certain things most people think they know about politics. One of those is that campaign finance regulation is necessary to prevent “big money” from dominating our elections.
In fact, campaign finance laws more often burden true, grassroots political activity, actually giving the “fat cats” another advantage in the system. This was brought home again this year when Colorado’s refreshing new Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, had his office study the breakdown of fines and penalties under Colorado’s campaign finance laws, which are among the strictest in the country.
Gessler found that the state’s largest political committees raised 26 percent of reported political contributions, but paid less than $15,000 in fines, or just one percent of the total fines levied by the state. But small donor committees raised just one percent of the funds, and paid 12 percent of the fines. In fact, these small committees ended up paying almost a third of their total receipts in fines to the state.