Commentary

Stephens: Taxpayer Money Won’t Fix Our Campaigns

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The Political Industry had a great victory the other night.

Gobs and gobs of cash flowed in to the state to pass Question 1, and going forward, formerly low key, low cost local elections will become their next cash cow. They have managed to pump up the cash for the coffers of the ailing mainstream media. Costs for advertising in the formerly low cost Maine media will skyrocket with the new infusion of Maine Clean Election Act (MCEA) funds, with Maine taxpayers footing the bill. Perhaps we should just pass a law to provide generous subsidies to the local media, and then go back to making local elections local? Intimate? Honest?

But that wouldn’t be the end of it. The political operatives would miss out on their chance at the trough, now that Maine taxpayers will be throwing up to $60,000 to every single candidate running for every single State Senate or $15,000 per House seat across the state every two years—a law that just passed.

Under the guise of “Clean Elections”, the Political Industry snookered us all. Instead of local politicians meeting local voters and allowing them to see for themselves what candidates are made of, they will get to see them in TV commercials, once they’ve been fully edited and vetted and approved for our viewing. Sixty thousand dollars can buy a lot of makeup.

I always wonder why someone from far away would put hundreds of thousands of dollars in to such a scheme. Then, when you realize that they are very, very wealthy, you have to think that they must be getting some return on that investment. After all, they didn’t become very, very wealthy just giving their money away. I guess if you were heavily invested in media stocks… just think if you could then nationalize this whole scheme—state by state, district by district.

There are very few outcomes that I can find that were other than abysmal when taxpayer dollars are pumped in to a formerly modest institution, or when an infusion of cash is dictated with law or executive action. Higher Education costs have soared. Massive infusions of cheap loan cash have pumped up tuition and other college costs at rates far exceeding the inflation rate. As a result, our youth are burdened with nearly one trillion dollars of student loan debt. Graduates are left unable to buy a home, or even think about it. They’re worried about starting a family, and putting that off. And many, unable to find a job in this Obama Economy, are defaulting on their college loans. Talk of another possible financial blow to the U.S. economy is out there.

And then there is the health care industry. Massive infusions of cash have benefitted the insurance companies. Doctors, hospitals, and especially the American people have taken it on the chin. Insurance premiums are exploding. Deductibles are following suit to the point that it is almost pointless to even have insurance. Why bother when you can’t afford the deductible, and you can’t go to the doctor or hospital when you need to? Isn’t that what we were supposed to be fixing? We are right back where we started, except that everything costs way more than when we started.

Yep, the media and the political operatives made out really well the other night. But the voters of Maine shouldn’t despair. We need to ask ourselves “what if?” The electorate is ready and waiting for candidates and campaigns to lead and show voters what local politicians with local ideas can do. They’re begging for campaigns and candidates that eschew big money, big politics and big smiles—for campaigns and candidates that get to work, get to know the voters and their issues, and lead in reforming campaign finance from the ground up.

Campaign finance reform will not happen with a referendum or a new law. It will happen when the voters recognize what is happening, and choose their representatives for the right reasons. It will happen when candidates and campaigns choose the path of integrity and honesty, and eschew PAC money and large donations from a few donors in exchange for lots and lots of small donations from their constituents. It’s happening in America now, and if it catches on our politics and our citizens and our country will be the better for it.

About Barry Stephens

Barry Stephens, as the Business Development Director at Zehnder America, Inc, is immersed in the energy efficiency building industry across North America. He lectures and teaches at energy efficiency conferences in the US and Canada, and is involved with many high profile energy efficient buildings projects. He built his own super efficient home in Buxton.

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