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News Opinion

Banning PAC and corporate campaign contributions a bad idea

Adam Sachs, a Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in District 12 wants to implement a system of public financing for state campaigns, and ban corporate and political action committee contributions to state candidates.

These are two bad ideas on many levels.

First and foremost, they represent restrictions on speech.  Why should the first amendment rights of corporations or PACs—voluntary associations of people—be any less valued than that of individuals? 

More money means more speech in our elections, why would we want to limit that?

Does Mr. Sachs want to ban the first amendment rights of say the Tribune Company and Graham Holding Companies, i.e., The Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, from endorsing candidates?

These ideas also limit competition, especially in the one area—our elections—where we should have robust competition.  

Underlying Mr. Sach’s proposition is the progressive freak out over the Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which overturned a law banning the mentioning of candidates within 60 days of a general election.

According to Open Secrets between 2000 and 2008, the incumbency rate for the U.S. House of Representatives ranged between 94 percent and 98 percent.  In 2010, the first post Citizens United federal election, the incumbency rate dropped to 85 percent.   Of course, 2010 saw historic turnover in the House, which meant many entrenched incumbents were forced to compete for their jobs. 

Why would a well-funded challenger (corporate or otherwise) to say Mike Miller or Mike Busch, who have sat in the General Assembly for a combined 67 years, be a bad thing? 

In other words, despite good intentions behind them, campaign finance restrictions and public financing would end up becoming an incumbent protection racket.

Here’s three reasons not to sweat Citizen United: [Embed code]


Mr. Sachs’ concern that “… money from businesses, corporations and special interests has an influence on the legislative process…” misses the forest for the trees when it comes to the influence of money in politics.  

 Reason 24/7’s Ed Krayewski notes that all campaign donations can do (corporate or otherwise) is sway you to vote for one candidate or the other.  The real concern is something else entirely: 

"High incumbency rates are signifiers of a broken political process. And it’s not corporate money or campaign donations that help keep incumbency rates high. Through earmarks and other legislative means, members of Congress can direct federal funds to their districts. The longer they’re in office, the better they get at bringing funds to their district, the more likely constituents are to vote to re-elect their representative whether they agree with his politics or not, simply because the legislator brings home the bacon. Taxpayer money in politics seems a lot more corrosive than corporate money. Politicians have effectively unlimited access to use taxpayer money in order to enrich themselves and ingratiate themselves with their constituents."

In Annapolis, bringing home the bacon translates into bond bills, which is a bipartisan malady.   Last year alone, the General Assembly funded $15 million in pork projects.

If Mr. Sachs wants to limit corporate influence then he should concern himself with the vast size and scope of a state government controlled by a one-party oligarchy based on crony capitalism and a rigged lobbying game, where politically connected lobbyists and consultants get their friends in government to steer more of our money to their special interest clients. 

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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