Thursday, March 02, 2006

Why Campaign Finance Reform is Necessary California, Election Reform, Governors, Policy Issues

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is the latest example of why campaign finance reform is necessary. Where else but in the United States of America could a high school student find the resources to give the maximum donation of $44,600 to Governor Schwarzenegger for his re-election campaign? Does anyone out there know of a teenager with $44,600 to their name? Capitol Weekly has the story.

Because Elizabeth Arkley is 18 years old, she, like any other adult, can donate up to $22,300 to Schwarzenegger for both the gubernatorial primary and general election. Elizabeth's parents, Cherie and Robin Arkley and her college-aged sister, Allison, each gave $44,600 to the governor's reelection campaign.

This process, for the uninitiated, is what is known as bundling. Elizabeth Arkley may not have $44,600 but because her parents have more than enough, and because she is at least 18, under California law, she can donate the maximum to the Governor under her own name. So what politically active, rich parents do is donate the maximum in the names of all of their family members who are legally eligible to donate.

In all fairness, Schwarzenegger's Democratic challengers, Phil Angelides and Steve Westly, have donors who have bundled their donations and done the same thing.

It is has been proven that young people aren’t the most politically active age group, so while Elizabeth Arkley might be politically active, what about all of the other youth who have donated large sums to Governors, Presidential candidates and others? Are they all politically active, and if so why aren’t they voting? Also, teenagers are notorious for rebelling against their parents. Are we to believe that Elizabeth Arkley and all the other teenagers who have donated actually support the candidates their parents support?

Mainly, bundling is a way for big money donors to skirt campaign finance laws and to gain favor with the candidate of their choice. How many of George W. Bush’s Rangers bundled donations?

It’s time for serious campaign finance reform. More power to the 18 year old who is able to donate $44,600 in an election cycle, but I’m willing to bet there are less than 5 of them out there. And while the Supreme Court has equated political donations with free speech, there has to be some way to stop the madness. I’ve been hearing more about it lately and perhaps public financing of elections is the answer.

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