Campaigns Should Be Run With "Clean Money"

By Herb Engstrom, Letter to the Editor

Your editorial in the Dec. 1 issue concluded with, "We need campaign spending limits for all levels of elected office." This would be a great idea, but unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that campaign spending is covered under First Amendment guarantees of free speech. Consequently, campaign spending limits are unconstitutional.

There is another approach, however, that not only passes constitutional muster because it is voluntary but is highly effective as well. It is called "clean money campaign finance reform" and has enjoyed enormous success in Maine and Arizona. A person who qualifies as a clean money candidate receives public funding for his or her campaign but agrees to a spending limit set by law. If that candidate's opponent is privately funded and exceeds that limit, which he or she is allowed to do, the clean money candidate can receive equal funding up to three or four times the legal limit. That adjustment effectively discourages even privately-funded candidates from over spending.

Clean money financing began in Maine in the 2000 election. In the November election of this year nearly 80 percent of all candidates, both Republican and Democrat, ran publicly funded campaigns. The result was a state legislature that included more women, minorities and ordinary folks who would not have had the wherewithal to run for office had public funding not been available. Special interest money has nearly been eliminated from state elections in Maine. In Arizona, the governor, Democrat Janet Napolitano, was elected through public finding, and that Arizona champion of campaign finance reform, Republican Senator John McCain, is a supporter of clean money.

Here in California, Assemblywoman Loni Hancock of Berkeley will introduce a clean money bill in the state Legislature. She deserves our support.

Herb Engstrom

San Jose

See the article on Saratoga News website

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

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