Monday, December 11, 2023

The fun begins

| January 26, 2006 11:00 PM

"Without comprehensive campaign finance reform, we are leaving the system of representative democracy open to the charge and to the reality that political outcomes are for sale. The appearance of favoritism to contributors is damaging; the fear bred of alienating contributors is growing; and each year the expense of campaigning mounts and the pressure to seek financial support wherever it can be found intensifies, even though the consequences are increasingly transparent." — a former U.S. Senator in 1993.

During one summer about 15 or 16 years ago, I found myself being a golf partner to a U.S. Senator.

We met by accident when we were teamed up during a Rotary Golf Tournament. He had a summer home in the area and I lived and worked there. Since we were both lousy golfers we started playing together whenever he was in town — which wasn't often but often enough for us to talk candidly to one another. He called me "Four Putt."

Toward the end of summer, he started talking about his upcoming re-election — two years away — and how expensive it was going to be. And he didn't look forward to the scorched earth politicking that he experienced and participated in for his first senate election. He estimated he had to raise more than $5,000 a day while in office for his own re-election.

That bothered him; it bothered him a lot. In his announcement that would not run for a second term he called it "a continuous money chase," "time consuming," "energy wasting" and "ultimately demeaning." He also felt that along with partisan bickering, the Senate was not the place to debate the great issues of the day no less solve the problems.

Oddly enough, this was a politician who worked on campaign reforms from the time he was elected in 1974. So in 1992, after one term in the Senate and five terms in the U.S. House, he announced he was leaving.

Fourteen years later it doesn't sound like much as changed — just the faces and the names.

We have two well-known state Democrats lined up to challenge Montana's U.S. Senator Conrad Burns. They are salivating over his highly publicized association to or with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff even though Burns has returned whatever campaign contributions came from Abramoff.

The money chase, to raise needed campaign expenses began a long time ago for all of these candidates.

Now according to the website, the average Senate incumbent spent $4,681,870 to get re-elected in the 2002 election year. In the recent past, $27 million was spent in New York, $63.2 million in New Jersey and $17.8 million in North Carolina Senate races.

That's a little more than $5,000 a day.

In 2002, Max Baucus, Montana's senior senator, raised $5.9 million during his re-election year. So that's the goal, except notes that challengers spent considerably more than incumbents.

I sometimes wonder if we pay more attention to who donates to whom and then cast our votes based on the contributors rather than the dribble emanating from the mouths of politicians and would-be politicians during campaigns. Somebody's getting what they paid for and we don't seem to mind otherwise we would force a change in the system.

Let the spending begin. — Roger Morris