Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Mark Kirk is Loaded and other Campaign Finance Realities

Today I did a little investigation to see what Illinois 10th District incumbent Mark Kirk has in his war chest. I'll tell you this, the man is not poor. After Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, Kirk has the highest amount of dollars of net receipt (i.e. money that hasn't been spent) ofany representative in Illinois. Hastert has nearly 2 million dollars; Kirk has $1,152,952. One might be inclined to think, therefore, that Kirk is popular. Let's not be fooled though: contrary to what some people would assert (usually those with a lot of money) money is not equivalent with speech. However, as it stands right now, money is important for campaigns. Lee Goodman, Kirk's Democratic challenger in 2004 spent a total $7,470 and garnered 35.8% of the district-wide vote. By comparison, Christine Cegelis, another Democratic challenger to a well-known incumbent--the distasteful Henry Hyde--spent $113,902 and came close to knocking Hyde out of that seat. Check out the rest of the FEC records on Democrats and Republicans in Illinois races for federal offices: those who won, and even those who are incumbents spent a sizeable amount of money. In 2004, Kirk spent $390,739. So, what's the point of all of this? The first is that Republicans--and especially Republicans like Mark Kirk who live in a district where individual contributions run large--have the financial edge. (The fact that Goodman received the votes he did becomes even more impressive when one looks at his meager warchest.) The second point is that Democrats can't be afraid to fundraise. The third point is that once Democrats get into office, they should not be afraid to lobby for changes in campaign finance laws. Money will always influence politics, but right now it has an undue influence. As this article suggests, many states are way ahead of the federal government when it comes to real campaign finance reform. So my memo to the Democrats (not that they need it): (1) Let's raise a lot of legal money for our candidates this year (2) Let's campaign against the need to raise so much money in the future.

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