Build Capital with Public Financing

The political season seems old already, because of the need for perpetual fundraising. In order to “compete” in the modern campaign, candidates for federal office must spend, on average, 4-6 hours per day calling donors.

In colloquial terms, this is known as “dialing for dollars.”

The fundraising dynamic is nothing new to politics. It’s just that the numbers have grown at an almost exponential rate over the past decade.

The advent of Internet fundraising has helped level the playing field in terms of giving smaller donors a meaningful way of participating. But donors, who call themselves bundlers, rangers, or any other campaign-created distinction reserved for the wealthy, are still driving fundraising for federal candidates.

So why do candidates perpetuate this madness? The short answer is because they’ve been told this is what it takes to win.

In all fairness, the presidential public financing system has not kept up with inflation and thus must be repaired. Candidates need to believe they are not unilaterally disarming by accepting public financing. Accordingly, when the new Congress convenes next year, there must be immediate action taken to fix the system and offer proper stipend amounts.

What makes this election year different from the past is that all of the remaining presidential candidates ostensibly support the idea of expanding public financing systems to Congressional races. Despite their rhetoric on the issue, they have all danced around the idea of using the system for the general election.

This is wrong.

While there are problems with the presidential public financing system, candidates have an opportunity to set a critically important tone about whose influence really matters in 2009 and beyond. By embracing public financing for the general election, candidates for the highest office in the land can earn credibility for the reforms they all are touting on the campaign trail.

Demonstrating a commitment to reforms like public financing when it matters will earn candidates respect from voters. This respect will ultimately give the new president greater leverage in pushing a public financing expansion or other important reforms.

So what do you say presidential candidates? How about building some capital with the people?

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