View Point

Saturday, October 24, 1998

Clean money,
clean elections

A conservative argument for
public financing of
election campaigns

By Toni Worst

Tapa

Gubernatorial candidate Linda Lingle's returning of public funds because she exceeded campaign spending limits is yet another example of how the current campaign statute is "more loophole than law." The system is broken, and in dire need of an overhaul; the last three decades of tinkering and band-aid reforms have only intensified money's stranglehold on our democratic processes.

But focusing on infractions like Lingle's really misses the bigger reality -- that even when everyone's in 100 percent compliance with the law, the system is little more than legalized bribery. And since the theme of this election is the economy, let's just look at the economic consequences of leaving campaign financing as is.

Notice that once again, politicians are arguing about how they'll wisely use or give us back our tax money, while ignoring the reason they take so much of it from us in the first place. Too-high taxes are caused by government overspending, which is fueled by politicians repaying their big campaign contributors with taxpayer-funded favors.

To keep re-election money coming in, they legislate corporate subsidies, industry grants, price supports, tax breaks, regulatory exemptions, preferential treatment, clean-ups, bailouts and loopholes for corporate and wealthy contributors. The government giveaways are then added to every Hawaii resident's yearly tax bills.

If we want lower taxes and a balanced budget, we must attack the disease rather than the symptom. Public financing of campaigns would remove the financial incentive for these abuses and would cost a fraction of what the current system now costs us in hidden taxes and consumer costs. It would transfer the politicians' allegiances from special interests back to the voters.

We can't afford to allow this corrupt political system to continue. We must stop the politicians from giving our tax dollars to special interest contributors. If you're concerned about Hawaii's economy, then campaign finance reform should also be your theme for this election. Do you know where your candidates stand on it? Will they support it or will they perpetuate the status quo? Ask every politician that's running: what will you do to pass real campaign finance reform?

We propose Clean Elections: a comprehensive package of reforms, including closing loopholes, improving disclosure, and giving a set and competitive amount of public funds for candidates who refuse contributions from private sources, agree to strict campaign spending limits, and can prove they have a base of popular support. It's been passed in Maine and Vermont and we want it passed in Hawaii and Congress. Remember, we can't afford not to.

Tapa

Bullet Hawaii Clean Elections members: League of Women Voters; Common Cause Hawaii; Advocates for Consumer Rights; Hawaii Green Party, Oahu; Graduate Students Organization of UH; University of Hawaii Student Caucus; Sierra Club, Hawaii Chapter; Life of the Land.

Bullet Supporting neighborhood boards: Liliha, Kalihi Valley, Koolauloa, Makiki, Waialae-Kahala, Kailua, Wahiawa, Kalihi-Palama, Palolo, McCully, Waianae, Waimanalo, Ewa.

Bullet Other supporters: Honolulu City Council, Democratic Party of Hawaii.


Toni Worst is president of Hawaii Clean Elections.


Elections workshop

Bullet What: Workshop on campaign finance reform sponsored by Hawaii Clean Elections
Bullet When: 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 14.
Bullet Where: State Capitol Room 016.
Bullet Call: For more information call Hawaii Clean Elections at 531-7448.





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