Friday, January 27, 2006

Me has to disagree with Daniel Henninger's call to repeal the limits on individual contributions to political candidates... as I think that making Congressmen chase a whole lot of small contributions is better idea than letting them chase after fewer, but richer, donors.

Getting oneself elected (and re-elected) to Congress is an expensive proposition. And, except for those few candidates who self-fund, this means candidates have to solicit donations from people who are willing to contribute. And, the ONLY reason ANYBODY contributes money to a candidate is because they are hoping that the candidate will vote the way the donor wants. And, the candidate, if he wants to keep those donations coming, knows he better vote in a way that pleases his donor base... so he votes in a way that pleases his donor base.

That is the unspoken truth swirling around all of the attention paid to the Abramoff mess... and to the whole debate over budget earmarks. Abramoff and budget earmarks are merely the symptoms of a system in which our elected officials pay off those that gave them the money to get elected by voting in certain ways, greasing the skids on Capitol Hill for favored constituents and by sending tax dollars their way.

And none of the reforms being discussed on Capitol Hill are going to change this dynamic. People who want the government to do something for them are going to be willing to spend some money to see that happen... and politicians, needing campaign money, will always be open to do good for their contributors.

Right now (I believe), the contribution limit now is $2,000 per person per election cycle per candidate... which means, that to finance a Senate campaign costing in the range of $10 million, an awful lot of people need to cough up $2,000 checks. Were the rules eliminated, a Senate candidate could finance his or her re-election with a single benefactor.

Given that the money has to come from somebody, and given that the politican is going to 'owe' the person(s) who provided the campaign funds, the question is whether we would rather have our politicians beholden to lots of little people or beholden to single benefactors.

For me, I would rather have a Senator beholden a little bit to a whole lot of people than a lot beholden to just a few people.