ANALYSIS: We need to put limits on how much money politicians can raise

Dec 11, 2018, 12:17 PM
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DISCLAIMER: the following is an opinion piece, and does not necessarily reflect the views of KSL or its ownership.

$11 million. That’s how much money the race between Mia Love and Ben McAdams cost.

$11 million.

I’d heard rumors about how much money they were spending — I knew it couldn’t be cheap to buy that many attack ads – but nothing could have prepared me for the real number. Those two spent $11 million, just to make sure that we couldn’t get in our cars without seeing at least one billboard where they accused each other of fraud.

And in two years, we’re going to go through it all over again – because in 2020, the seat for Utah’s 4th congressional district is going to be up for election again.

We’ve got to control this. We need campaign finance reforms that put a limit on how much money these politicians can raise. Because when our politicians spend millions trying to get elected, it causes more than just financial problems.

Why we need campaign finance reform

Ben McAdams and Mia Love

Ben McAdams, left, and Mia Love, right. Their 4th Congressional District Race cost about $11 million. (Left photo: Scott G Winterton, KSL; Right photo: AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

An $11 million election campaign doesn’t make democracy a better process.

The problem isn’t just the money itself. Technically, having these politicians raise and spend money at such a huge rate actually benefits the economy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. Because when our elections are focused on how much money we can spend, it keeps them from doing they’re elected to do.

On the air today, I told you KSL’s own Doug Wright considered running for office once, but when he found out what was involved in the fundraising process, it turned him off of it.

It was the amount of money he’d have to raise to run, and, with it, the amount schmoozing involved. He would have to spend an incredible amount of time on the phone, calling people and asking them for their money.

That was incredibly unappealing to him – and it would be for me, too. Who wants to call up friends and ask for thousands of dollars just for a chance at a seat in office?

You have to be willing to sacrifice some dignity to raise that kind of money. But more than that, you have to be willing to sacrifice a lot of time.

That time sink is a huge problem because Ben McAdams only has two years before his next election – and if he wants to win it, he’s going to have to get back out on the campaign trail raising funds pretty soon.

He’s seen firsthand proof that, if you want to win an election in this country, you need to pour money into it. You need to hire the best creative ad agencies and campaign managers so that you can turn your campaign into a spectacle.

Because that’s what a campaign becomes when you let politicians raise an endless amount of money. It becomes a big show that’s all about presentation instead of just telling the people where you stand before they cast their votes.

Those $11 million don’t make people more informed. We saw that Mia Love and Ben McAdams this year, and in two years, when McAdams is up for election again, we’re going to see it all over again.

Nancy Pelosi’s plan just doesn’t work

Nancy Pelosi's Campaign Finance Reform

Nov. 15, 2018 file photo of Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has proposed having the government match campaign donations 6 to 1. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The Democrats say that they want to fix this – but don’t get too excited. When you hear what their plan is, I think you’re going to agree that it’s only going to make things worse.

Nancy Pelosi has promised that campaign finance reform is one of the first things they’re going to focus on this year. They have a whole bill ready, and they think they can convince candidates to accept a limit of $200 in donations per donor.

That sounds great on paper – and I have to admit, I got a bit excited when I read those headlines. I couldn’t help thinking: this might be the first time in my life that I’ve been on the same page as Nancy Pelosi.

But here’s the problem: Pelosi doesn’t just want to lower contribution limits. She wants to make up the difference by having the government match political donations.

If someone donates a dollar to a politician that’s signed up for her plan, she’s going to take taxpayer money and match their donation. But she’s not just going to give politicians a dollar. She wants to government to match every donation six-to-one.

That’s her idea of campaign finance reform. If I give a dollar to a politician, she wants the government to give him $6.

That’s insane. Because that means that, if I decide to donate money to a politician, you have to use your tax dollars to donate, too — whether you would have chosen to donate to a political campaign on your own or not.

And it doesn’t matter who the politician is. If some crazy, ultra-right-wing white supremacists runs for office and somebody gives him money, every taxpayer in America is going to have to donate money to his campaign, whether they support him or not.

It doesn’t have to be that complicated. All we have to do is limit the amount of donations our politicians can raise.

Limit those donations and they won’t have to spend their whole term in office getting ready for the next big fundraiser, and they’ll be able to actually do what we elected them to do.

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ANALYSIS: We need to put limits on how much money politicians can raise