The Munro Institute would like to thank our panelists for an engaging discussion today. Suffice to say that getting an inside look into campaign strategy by the strategists themselves is a rare look into the inner workings of our state’s political process.
This was the only panel to not be recorded by TVW, however, the video crew from Western Washington University recorded the session and it is now available at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23586902.
There were many highlights in the discussion. I generally try to feature at least one from each panelist, but I admit that I got behind in my notes today, and they are a bit sparse on specifics. Of note was the discussion regarding the actual percentage of voters that campaigns influence in order to win an election. Ron Dotzauer pointed out that campaigns need to convince the final 8-10% of voters in order to win most elections.
If there was a common underlying thread, it was the emphasis placed on the amount of money that is required for modern campaigns to function.
That being said, it was interesting to note that there seemed, to varying degrees, a general lack of support for the recent “Citizens United” decision which essentially gave corporations the same rights as private citizens regarding campaign donations. The panelists seemed to agree in theory that this and other various attempts at campaign finance reforms had weakened limitations to campaign spending rather than providing more restrictions.
If I understand their point of view, corporations now can donate more “soft money” to Political Action Committees, who are removed from any type of control by the various campaigns that they choose to support. When there were more direct donations to the campaigns themselves, there was a higher level of accountability, as the campaigns had to identify donors that gave over a specified amount of money.
In light of this discussion, what are your thoughts?
Should we allow campaign donations and spending to grow ever larger? Is this even a problem? Or do you feel that the increasing amounts of spending restrict access to government for the general public, and create a society where only those who can afford to spend lavishly on candidates get representation? If so, should we eliminate donations entirely and publicly fund campaigns with amounts of spending set by preset limits for local, regional, state, and national elections, taking all private, monetary influence out of campaigns? Is there some happy medium we as a nation or state could agree on?
If you feel campaign finance reform is necessary, please include ideas you may have on how to reform our current financing structure.