...I'm okay with being REALITY-based.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003
      ( 11:23 AM )
Elections and The Money that Buys Them

Well I do confess some disappointment that Mississippians elected Haley Barbour (of known connections with the KKK-associated organizations in the south), but I don't think that all is lost for Democrats.

One thing that was definitely proven here in Oregon's initiative election yesterday was that money is the power. The Enron/PGE entities spent upwards of $2 million to put out ads that falsly warned of higher rates and massive tax increases, along with firings of PGE employees if the PUD were selected by voters. Unfortuately, the PUD proponents didn't have the deep pockets to fight the lies with the truth that Oregon law would forbid layoffs of the utility workers, the "tax" was a one time surcharge equal to 45 cents per $150,000 home, and now that Enron has the go-ahead to sell off PGE for parts, indeed our rates WILL go higher without the PUD. It was a disgrace, and I think Multnomah County voters are going to regret it when they realize that it wasn't another layer of government they were rejecting, it was the wholesale dominance of Enron they were accepting.

On the national election front, Howard Dean has revealed what the much-rumored "Big Email" on Thursday will be to all of his supporters. He has decided to leave it up them as to whether he accepts federal matching funds for his campaign or forgoes the $19 million in federal money in order to try and make much larger fundraising gains. He tells his supporters today:

This is how the Bush campaign believes they
can defeat us. If we accept federal matching
funds -- and the $45 million spending cap that
goes with it -- they will have a $155 million
spending advantage against us. From March
through August, they will be able to define
and distort us, and we will have no way to
defend ourselves.

So on Thursday, he is having his supporters vote on whether to accept the federal funds or not. It's a good plan - either way he won't have to take the heat for whatever is decided. He will allow voting Thursday through Friday and then on Saturday will announce the decision:

But this is what we face:

In the last two elections, politicians, political
parties and interest groups have spent 5.1
billion dollars. Those billions came from less
than 5% of the public. And before this election
is finished George Bush plans to add 200
million dollars more from large corporate interests.

Where does all this money come from? Well,
in the last six years, despite massive corporate
scandals and the crash of the NASDAQ, the
financial services industry managed to find
almost 168 million dollars to influence the
political process.

A pharmaceutical and health products industry
that can’t afford to sell our seniors cheaper
prescription drugs did manage to find 60 million
dollars to influence our elections.

The oil and gas industry got the best deal. It
only needed to give 64 million dollars to be
able to sit in Vice President Cheney’s office
and write our energy policy.

Last year the Congress passed the McCain/
Feingold law. It was supposed to take the
corrupting influence of large corporate interests
out of our political process.

Yet not even before the ink was dried, President
Bush betrayed this bill’s intent and spirit. George
Bush announced he would bypass the matching
system and raise 200 million dollars for a primary
election in which he faces no opponent.

It's a tough one. He did promise to not reject the federal matching funds, it was a statement that was connected with his campaign's plan not to go for big corporate donations, but for the everyman. He's proven he can get the latter: average donations of $77 dollars have made up the almost $20 million he's raised so far. But that's all he can raise now. If he accepts federal funds, he's done and his spending limit is set.

So viewing this from the bigger picture, I don't think the honorary notion of sticking to federal matching funds is a moral standard that can't be breached. His competitors may say that this makes the race unfair, but frankly, they aren't anywhere near his fundraising now, so I am not sure what would make that change anyway. If he rejects federal funds, then he is going to have to scramble for bigger donations and it will be up to the people and probably bigger donors to try and match what the government would have given. However, he wouldn't have a spending limit.

The truth is that Bush is going to outspend any Democrat 20 to 1 in this election and if he wins on sheer money power, then we are all doomed. While I admire the desire to stick with the federal funds limits, this is not a fair fight and we can't afford to lose it this time around if we are the only ones playing fair. If we do, in four more years, we will be a bloody pulp of a nation. I daresay we can more afford to pay a Democrat candidate's fight now than pay our way out of a further Bush mess in years to come.

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