To the Highest Bidder

Aug 222004
Authors: Ben Bleckley

In the August 10 primary election here in Colorado, Mike Miles and Bob Schaffer were both beaten in their particular parties. Neither raised that much money. While their opponents Ken Salazar and Pete Coors, respectively, raised more than $1 million each, Miles and Schaffer didn’t break half a million.

“Money is one of the reasons a candidate gets elected,” said Cory Wertz, press secretary for Ken Salazar for Senate. He pointed out other factors, such as a strong grassroots organization, name recognition and accomplishments.

“It’s a combination of a lot of factors,” Wertz said.

But if money is a factor in political races, no matter how small, then maybe this fight wasn’t entirely fair.

“For a while there were so many news stories coming out about how wonderful it was that this candidate was getting this much and this many millions of dollars, that candidate was getting this many millions of dollars,” said Liz Gauthier, press secretary for Mike Miles’ campaign. “I finally said in a press release that the U.S. Senate seat was not for sale.”

Yet it would appear the seat could go to the highest bidder.

“The further you jack up the turnout, which is what happened in this last (Republican primary) election, other factors start to come into play,” said John Straayer, a professor in the political science department. “Not the least of which is money and advertising . . . incumbents have the advantage and the people with the most money have the advantage.”

And that is not fair.

Two things need to happen.

The first is campaign finance reform. An individual donation limit of $2,000 is not low enough.

Some would argue that the monetary donations are a form of free speech, protected by the Bill of Rights, and that donations allow a political message to be heard by more individuals. However, Bill Gates is not supposed to have more First Amendment rights than someone working three jobs to feed his or her family.

Consider this example. If there is a candidate for senate who says he or she will work to lower tuition at public universities, a great majority of college students would support said candidate. Some citizens paying taxes, especially citizens without children or children who are already through college, would not be so enthusiastic.

The maximum amount any individual can contribute to a candidate is $2,000. Very few college students have that kind of money to throw around – about a whole semester’s worth of resident tuition. But non-students with full-time jobs might have the money to do it. Not that they necessarily would, but they could support the opponent of our tuition-lowering tax-hiker.

Secondly, everyone needs to quit voting for the first name they recognize on a ballot. Just because you saw a television commercial for Ken Salazar but never saw one for Mike Miles and don’t know who he is does not mean Salazar is the best candidate for the job. Everyone needs to stop voting in contests when they don’t know both candidates and where they stand.

Sir Winston Churchill said: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Just trying to get democracy a little bit closer to perfect.

Editor’s Note: Pete Coors for Senate and Bob Schaffer for Senate were contacted in regards to this column, but did not return our phone calls before the article’s deadline.

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