Creating a public financed campaign system in our city would create a more participatory democratic society. It would create a level playing field for all citizens regardless of their economic situation or institutional influence. Voting would have significant more power and thus hopefully more people would participate.

  Ken Bradley
  Kenny Neighborhood

I've been Treasurer for many party units, candidates, and joint campaigns over the years.

I just can't see that public financed campaigns would solve all these problems. Just change to different problems.

Here's some that I see:

1. Adequacy of public financing. Would the amounts budgeted for this be adequate to run a campaign? Given that the City has trouble right now budgeting enough for things like police & fire, I have my doubts. Especially when there is an incentive NOT to fund it -- incumbents are already known, and don't have to spend as much getting their name out, so inadequate campaign funds generally helps the incumbent. Then why would they budget more money into a system that their opponents need more than they do? And would the amounts stay adequate over the years? Look at the State of Minnesota's Political Contribution Refund program. Though a great & innovative idea when it was passed (31 years ago), it's becoming more & more irrelevant nowdays. Because the amount has only been changed once (20 years ago), inflation has made it so small as to be nearly irrelevant. More & more candidates are deciding it's better for them to forgo participating in this program altogether. And it means less and less for the contributors, too. And remember that you can't put a limit on campaign spending; the Supreme Court struck down that part of the law soon after it was passed. First Amendment rights are clear there.

2. Also, you can't limit the right of people (as individuals, political parties, or PACs) to spend their money supporting candidates they like. So you would have lots more of the 'independent expenditure' type of campaign ads or mailings. And there are often questions about how 'independent' they are -- look at Gov. Pawlenty's campaign for an obvious example of that! Not that the 2 Park Board groups that started this discussion are both of this independent expenditure type. Public Financing of the candidate's campaigns would have absolutely no control over how these 2 groups spent their money for their supported candidates. So I can't see how this would be a level playing field. Those with money could just stay off the field, and create their own independent groups to mount huge fans on the sidelines. Soon the official candidates' committee spending would be minor compared to these independent groups.

3. Finally, ay time government is giving money, they can start to put strings on it. Currently, there are extensive reporting requirements for campaign finance. And more are regularly suggested (often right on this list!). There are fines and charges if you fail to meet these reporting requirements. There is pressure from the State to use their suggested software to do your reporting. (That software started out pretty mediocre, with at least one major security breach. It's been upgraded, and now is pretty good.) But they want to force everybody to use it. There are requirements about accepting non-check contributions that appear to work against grassroots contributions from low-income people.
        And these regulations could be extended.
What about adding a Davis-Bacon type restriction on this: public campaign funding can only be spent at businesses that pay prevailing ('union') wages? Our DFL candidates generally do this already, but what anti-union Republican candidates think of such a restriction?

I don't see this solving the problems at all.

Tim Bonham, Ward 12, Standish-Ericsson

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