This LTE originally provided by
The Pocahontas Times
November 1, 2007
I love it when people tell me, "I don't want my tax dollars paying for
politicians' campaigns." That means I get to ask them the real question, "Who do
you want to pay for them, then?" The response is usually a quizzical stare.
West Virginians don't seem to realize that their tax dollars will pay for the
people they elect one way or another. In the 2004 election cycle, less than one
percent of West Virginians contributed to any state candidate's campaign. Yet
millions of dollars were spent. Where does the public think the money came from
- since it obviously didn't come from them?
The real decision isn't whether citizens pay for campaigns, but how we pay.
Maine, Arizona, and Connecticut have taken the high road and are being rewarded
by public campaign financing systems. Why should West Virginia's public policy
be held hostage by big donors to our legislators' campaigns?
The recent gambling legislation is a pertinent example. Whatever one's
position on the issue, one can marvel at the money that flowed around it.
According to the most recent data from the People's Election Reform Coalition (PERC),
contributions from the gambling industry went up a startling 400 percent during
the 2006 election cycle. No surprise that they got their legislation.
And why was the real promise of the 2003 legislation requiring our state to
negotiate directly with drug companies for lower prices never realized? Take a
look at the open wallets of the pharmaceutical industry and its fleet of
If we want good schools for our children, health care for all, a clean and
non-toxic environment and greater economic diversity we must fund our election
The state's well-entrenched special interests argue that it is a public good
that we allow them to continue paying for our elections. Why burden ourselves?
Why spend the five or six dollars per household it would cost to have the
citizens pay for election campaigns?
We've heard their line: Ridiculous use of taxpayer money - welfare for
politicians! We shouldn't be surprised by their vehemence. They are profiting
nicely from the status quo, thank you. They get access, influence, and special
treatment in return for their contributions. And the voters continue to lose, in
terms of both policy and accountability. But the monied interests just smile at
our disillusionment. They would like nothing better than for us to stay home,
shut up and not even bother to vote.
West Virginians are already paying for our state's political campaigns.
Wouldn't we be smarter to spend a few million dollars per election cycle for
public financing? Or will we continue to spend mega-millions benefiting the few
who currently foot the bills?