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Could we use public funds to finance political campaigns?

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in last month’s presidential election. About $150 million is expected to be spent in the special election on Jan. 5 to fill two U. S. Senate seats in Georgia.

Take a few minutes and think of all of the good that much money could buy in terms of fighting hunger, homelessness, unemployment, and business failures, among other problems facing millions of Americans today.

Instead, our political system today allows the so-called “dark money” from faceless contributors to literally finance the buying and selling of public office by flooding local media, social media, and other media with campaign messaging.

Unlimited resources have led to the hiring of countless numbers of phone bank operators and technical staff to bombard voters with phone calls, texts and e-mails, featuring incessant requests for more campaign donations.

National and statewide races now involve the use of electronic surveillance, computer experts and even private detectives to conduct what is called “opposition research” on opponents. That means they’re more successful in looking for and finding personal “dirt” on the opposing candidate.

I realize many of us are weary of all things political but let’s fantasize for a few moments about a new election system.

It would allocate X number of dollars to each candidate, based on the number of voters, but only for the general election. Those running in primaries would have to raise their own money but with drastically lower limits and only with contributions from individuals.

The two final candidates for governor, for example, would receive funds for the fall balloting but would have to campaign in every county in person so that voters could make choices on personal appearances rather than just TV sound bites and slick mailings.

In addition to discouraging election fraud, publicly-funded campaigns would allow additional qualified individuals to seek office who cannot today because of limited personal resources. Also, that approach would prevent wealthy candidates from buying an election victory with their own money.

My plan doesn’t yet include a means of generating that money for candidates but I’m confident that a check-off system on tax returns or something akin to that could be developed. 

Most of all, I want to take down the “for sale” sign on public office in this country.

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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