Political Campaign Contribution Caps Are Worthless

I truly believe that political contribution caps are a complete sham. To begin with, campaigns and contributors always find a way around them anyway (and I think people should be allowed to personally contribute to anyone they wish in any amount they desire as a form of protected political free speech). More to the point, however, contribution caps are a band-aid that cloaks voter apathy.

Many who tout the caps think they will “level the playing field” (often in favor of their own political party or candidate) and stop the “corrupting influence of money”. They fail to understand that our system is already a level playing field: the only way to win an election is by receiving the greatest number of votes. There is no elected office in this country that can only be filled through a certain bank rating. Ultimate power remains in the hands of voters.

Political campaigns will spend gobs of money on cute fliers with little or no specifics. Contribution cap proponents point to this as the cause of the problem. They believe that campaigns go crazy looking for money to fund their marketing efforts. While it is true that campaigns do go overboard on fund raising for obnoxious amounts of advertising, it is hardly the cause of the problem they wish to address. The real cause is the voters.

Do you honestly think campaigns would spend so much if it did not work? Just like business, they are meeting a demand. That demand is that we should be able to hardly lift a finger to perform a vital duty as citizens of this great land. Thus, we demand campaigns come to us and give us quick sound bites and a plethora of pretty colored flyers and gag-inducing knickknacks. That demand is the problem and, especially with the advent of the internet, there is no excuse for it.

If voters were engaged as the Founding Fathers intended, it would only take a quick trip to the internet to peruse a candidate’s website and determine their positions on the various issues you may be concerned about. Additionally, there are a plethora of organizations with their various assessments and ratings you may browse. It is easy and hardly time consuming to slap together an email with your questions for candidates which either they or, in the case of larger campaigns, their staffers can answer. In local campaigns, you can also call the candidate and have a direct question-answer conversation with them.

For those willing to make the effort to become informed, prepare open-ended questions and do not give your position away (you may also want to phrase the question to appear to come from the opposite view of your own). That helps weed out candidates who pander. Be polite and keep in mind that those you speak with are regular people too. Each time I have personally called a candidate they are pleasantly surprised and happy to answer my questions.

After noticing how excited candidates became when I called, I started asking how many other calls they had received. Unfortunately, they could count the calls on one hand. Therein lies the true cause of our “money in politics” problem. Contrary to the expectation of the Founding Fathers and religious guides, complacency reigns supreme. This complacency is what has provided the opening for the “corrupting influence of money” in politics.

So the next time someone bemoans money in politics, tell them the culprit and most effective solution is easy to identify…in the mirror.

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4 thoughts on “Political Campaign Contribution Caps Are Worthless

  1. Another point of view.

    If candidates and contributors always find a way around contribution caps—then close the loopholes. In Utah in 2008 corporations, not voters contributed over 2.5 million to state legislative races.

    Contribution caps do not cloak voter apathy, they force candidates to appeal to a broader spectrum of individual contributors for the necessary funds instead of to one or two deep pocket individuals or corporations.

    Out system is definitely NOT a level playing field. Incumbents who have positions of power in the legislature are a magnet for special interest group and corporate money since the lobbyists can get the most “bang for the buck” from those people when bills affecting their interests come before the committees.

    The fact of the matter is that money buys signs, political ads in the media, professional campaign managers and staff and as a result also buys—VOTES.

    There is no cause or effect relationship with voter complacency and campaign contributions. Voter apathy and complacency in Utah are the direct result of a one party system. The Democrats don’t vote since they know their candidate won’t be elected anyway. The Republicans don’t vote because they know their candidate will win even if they don’t.

    Placing caps and restrictions on campaign contributions will force the candidates to be more responsible and accountable to, and representative of the electorate whom they are supposed to serve instead of the corporations and special interests as has always been the case.

  2. Everything you describe, as far as I am concerned, rests on voters.

    Signs, pamphlets, 30 second media ads don’t mean a thing to an informed electorate.

    While being in the minority may be disappointing, it usually doesn’t stop people (usually they fight harder). With the majority complacency can occur. However, I’ve heard far too many people (Republicans included) complain about their representative(s) to believe that they have no opinion. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, the same people will still want to sit on their hands and want to be spoon fed information or sound bites. They tend to vote for the politician they chided because they saw their ad or flyer and it made them feel good.

    What ever the excuse used, I don’t care to hear it from people. If they don’t want to fight but prefer to whine and sit it out, then they get exactly what they deserve and have asked for.

    If you want representatives to be responsible to the people, the people need to be responsible to their duties. As stated, no amount of money and pretty ads will matter to an involved electorate. The reason money matters is because the representatives are being responsive to the electorate’s demands that they (voters) be allowed to shirk their duties as envisioned by the founders.

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