Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why Campaign Finance Reform?

Papers around the state have touted the need for campaign finance reform. The Bloomington Pantagraph editorialized this weekend, "Putting limits on donations made by individuals, parties, corporations and political action committees to political campaigns may not end corruption in Illinois. But it would be a good start." Jim Muir's Sunday column in the Southern quoted John Jackson, a visiting Professor at SUIC, "this bothers the people of Illinois and the indication is that we are very skeptical and quite cynical, and probably campaign finance is the number one reason behind that skepticism and cynicism… As a people we are very skeptical that [elected officials] come awfully close to being for sale." And the Rock Island Argus and Moline Dispatch wrote that pay to play reform "is essential to restore faith in a state government that many consider one of the most corrupt in the country."

We agree with all of them. Illinois' campaign finance rules are the most wide-open, least regulated in the nation. Any candidate can take as much money from any donor as they can persuade the donor to part with. And the result is voter cynicism about the conflict between constituents and contributors for official's loyalties.

Campaign finance reform is nobody's top issue. Most people assume government will be well-run and responsive to voters concerns. When it's not, however, voters start asking why they're not getting what they deserve from their elected officials. By allowing specialized interests to target huge donations -- not just tens of thousands of dollars at a time but multiples of average annual household earnings -- to candidates for office, Illinois' Election Code fosters the impression that bribes and campaign donations are the same thing. To restore public faith in government, and to make clear that constituents matter far more than contributors each and every time that an elected casts a vote, Illinois must change the way campaigns are funded.

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