Campaign Principle #3- Run on a budget.
This may not be the most controversial principle but it is by far the least followed. Politics and fundraising has become as inseparable as college and student loans. Most feel you can't have one without the other. And while I am not opposed to all fundraising and campaign donations, the extent to which it is done is ridiculous.
In 2016 Hillary Clinton and her Super PAC raised over $1.2 billion dollars. And that is less than Barack Obama in 2012. Does anyone really think that if only she had a few more million dollars to throw out a few more adds in the swing states she would have pulled it off?
I wish I could recall the exact numbers but I recall that in 2012 with less than a week to go in the election, President Obama, and Mitt Romney both had some insane amount of money and I was getting calls and emails asking me to donate more every day. Both had so much money that they could flood almost every airway radio and TV, fill every mailbox, put a yard sign in every yard and still have enough to pay my salary for the rest of my life. (This may be an exaggeration but not by much.)
The problem is that one of the major ways we base how a candidate is doing is the "Money Race". How much do they have on hand? How much is in their "war chest"? Of course, their is legitimate reasons we do this. If someone is willing to put money into someone's campaign they are extremely likely to vote for them. Hence, why the "small dollar" donations are seen as an important metric. Yet, the majority of the money coming into campaigns is not "small dollar". This is true at all levels.
The fundraising flood that hits every major election cycle puts far more money into campaigns than is really needed for candidates to get their information out there. We encourage them to raise as much as possible and spend as much as possible. I see three significant issues with this:
1. We have them learn that the way to get things done is to spend, spend, spend and then we scratch our heads that they cannot find a way to put forth policies that maintain a reasonable budget.
2. Nobody is immune from influence. If someone pays us money we feel indebted to them, it's human nature. The more they give us the more indebted we feel. You can be the best person on earth but if someone pays you thousands of dollars to help get you elected, you are going to give them more heed when they come knocking on your door, than some else who did not.
3. Money spent on elections is money that could have been spent elsewhere. We all know there are many things that are needed in our community. Our schools are underfunded, with underpaid teachers, people throughout the world go hungry, and high school kids swim in pools that don't meet their needs. Shifting campaign funds to these issues would not solve them, but it would be a step in the right direction.
So what is to be done?
We could make laws trying to craft how much each person can contribute? (owe wait we did that). We could cap the total and dictate every aspect of fundraising?
That is not my vote. Rather I would love to see candidates run on a budget. And if I run for office that is exactly what I will do. Pick a reasonable amount you feel it would cost to run. For example, if you are running for city council review what you feel it will costs you to to run an effective election, say, $10,000. Then cap your fundraising at that. If I were to do it, I would say I would only take $20 donations from 500 people. After that, if you want to give more I would encourage they put the money to something more worthwhile than getting me elected. (That shouldn't be too hard to find.) If I were running this year for city council/mayor I would encourage any excess go to a fund to donate private donations to the pool, or other cause I feel is important.
This would do several things: show that I am able to plan and execute within a budget, and don't simply look to money to solve my woes. It would encourage small donations, because people would know how I plan to fund my election, and lastly it would ensure that I am not overly indebted to one person or organization. It's a very unique model, but I would love to see it catch on. If anyone tried it, they would go very far in winning my vote.