Will We See Campaign Finance Reform In Our Lifetime?

Okay, granted, campaign finance is undoubtedly no longer an issue that we'll hear about until the next election cycle. It will only resurface at that point when the constant abuses and loopholes through the inadequate laws we now have are exposed, investigated, reported, tsk tsked about and then completely forgotten until it all starts again two years later.

Nevertheless, since it is my humble opinion that the ever smaller numbers of Americans who still exercise their right to vote is directly due to the grotesque sight of money buying each and every candidate and the blindness that this slavery to the almighty dollar engenders in those who claim to represent us but, of course, do not. While I in no way claim that the answer of putting an outright stop to the unconditional bribery that goes on right before our eyes will repair all of our ills, it is most certainly a needed and positive change in our depressing, downward political spiral. Once the enormous amounts of cash are removed from the system, then the voice of the voters will, at least, once again be loud enough to possibly be heard. Whether it's heeded, of course, will be seen.

Okay, then, want some discouraging facts to think about first? Well, too dang bad! You don't read my stuff for its airheaded cheerfulness, do you. The media gives you all that you can stomach of that, doesn't it?!? Okay, deep breath and try to relax. Here we go. . .

The major network news programs carried 73% fewer stories about the 1998 midterm elections than they did during the 1994 midterm elections. (1) In California, the local stations devoted only one third of one percent of their coverage of all news to the important race for the governor's post. (2) In the words of Annenberg Associate Dean Martin Kaplan, "Those who believe that political coverage basically doesn't exist on local TV news turn out to be right." (3)

Instead of the voters being given intelligent, in-depth news reports about the candidates and their positions, nasty and negative political ads were run in what became the most expensive advertising campaign in history - $531 million in television revenue. (4)

When one includes all political spending - advertising for each candidate, soft money ads from the parties, etc. - the total is an astounding $4 BILLION! Understand, gentle readers, this wasn't even a year of presidential candidates, this was a mid-term election! How much more will the election in 2000 cost? You're guess is as good as mine but you can rest assured it will far exceed that $4 billion figure. (5)

Of the 401 House members who ran to retain their seat, an amazing 98.3% won. They, as incumbents, outspent their challengers five to one while 23.6% had no opponents for their seats. In the primaries, only one incumbent lost his election and that was Rep. Jay Kim (Republican - California) who was wearing an ankle bracelet courtesy of the California penal system who had confined him to his home as a condition of his parole for accepting, you guessed it, an illegal campaign contribution. (6)

Finally, on Nov. 3, 1998, 64% of all eligible adults (115.5 million) refused to exercise their right to vote. This was the lowest percentage of voter turnout since 1942, when the majority of males eligible to vote were busy fighting in WW II. (7)

In the summer of 1998, the House of Representatives passed a bill which would have banned the unlimited funds from unions, corporations, individuals and groups. The measure, of course, was blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Republican controlled Senate, where it died.

Remember that awful moment when President Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich were asked about when they would enact real campaign finance reform with real punishments for offenders? Remember old Willy and Newt shaking hands firmly and smiling into the cameras while they promised reform before the next election cycle (which was the 1996 election and we all know of the financial atrocities that both major parties happily inflicted on our once great system of government).

Remember also last year when the Justice Department made a big show of acting as if they were investigating campaign finance irregularities? Remember when the Republican Congress showed just how irrelevant they really were by holding kangaroo court type committee meetings to investigate only Democratic fundraising with an absolute ban on any testimony regarding the same irregularities committed by the Republicans? Remember when both farces finally died a slow, painful death but, suddenly, the FEC (Federal Election Committee) recommended that both Clinton and Dole be required to repay the federal government the misused public funds as a penalty for improperly using soft money to promote their candidate? Remember when it all just went away like a breath of foul, noxious gases emanating from the mouths of the nation's worst political criminals? Remember? I do, and it still turns my stomach.

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Copyright 4/19/99