Ooh boy! Costly campaigns ahead!

Ooh boy! Costly campaigns ahead! By Editorial Often times, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) sends the media press releases to express his outrage about goings on in Washington, DC.

One of his latest pet peeves: The national marketing campaign that explains the changes made to the $20 bill.

Johnson said the cost of the campaign � $32 million � during times of fiscal crisis is irresponsible.

"While we all support protecting our currency from counterfeiting, the decision to spend $32 million on marketing it is outrageous," he said. "When we can't fully fund veterans' healthcare or the president's education program, the Department of Treasury should have practiced a bit more fiscal restraint."

We can't help but detect a bit of "pot calling the kettle black" going on here.

Remember the 2002 U.S. Senate election in South Dakota?

Johnson defeated John Thune by just a few hundred votes to win re-election last November.

And he spent a ton of money doing it.

His campaign financial records showed he spent $6,959,059 to be exact.

Do the math, and his campaign expenditures total about $37 per vote.

Thune didn't quite equal Johnson in the spending department, but he came close. His campaign shelled out $5,989,043. He spent about $31 for every vote he received.

The 2004 general elections are just a little over a year away.

But, just like Christmas trees adorning Wal-Mart stores before Halloween to remind us of the December holiday, Sen. Tom Daschle's television ads in the past couple months have served as a warning.

They signal that South Dakota will be the site of a long, tiring, and no doubt extremely expensive U.S. Senate campaign once more.

According to data released Oct. 21 by the Federal Election Commission, the Daschle camp has raised $4,081,310 from 1999 to 2004.

In that same time period, the Senate minority leader's campaign has spent $2,284,331.

For the 2004 election cycle, Daschle has raised $2,336,686.

There have been attempts made in Congress to try to give us all a little relief from the seemingly endless and highly expensive political campaigns we've been experiencing.

They haven't gotten very far, though. And who's thrown up roadblocks to reform?

Well, let's see. Conservatives, liberals, Republicans, Democrats, special interests, labor, the NRA and the ACLU, just to name a few.

In other words, the blame can be spread rather evenly. The campaign finance reform bill signed into law last year would ban soft money (unlimited campaign contributions to political parties) and prevent special interest groups from running so-called "issue" ads that mention a candidate just prior to an election.

The law also doubles the hard money limits for individuals. The law's soft money restrictions would greatly impact the way campaign funds are raised: Political parties collected more than $400 million in soft money contributions during the 2002 elections.

Shortly after the bill was signed by President Bush, several groups filed lawsuits, challenging the law's constitutionality. The AFL-CIO, American Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association say the legislation's curbs on issue ads are an unconstitutional limit on free speech.

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), an outspoken critic of the new law, and the Republican National Committee also filed lawsuits, asking for the law's ban on soft money contributions to be struck down.

In May, a federal court ruled that the new law's ban on soft money was unconstitutional, allowing the political parties to resume raising the unlimited campaign contributions. The court restricted how soft money can be spent, however, prohibiting political parties from using it to run issue ads.

The FEC has been no help, either.

The FEC is like a captive agency, controlled by the people and organizations it is supposed to regulate. It has long been under the thumbs of congressional leaders and the political parties, to the point where the agency no longer sees its mission as enforcing the law. Instead, it acts as a referee, making sure neither of the two major parties gets an unfair advantage over the other.

It's no wonder, then, that Sen. Johnson feels comfortable stating this about the $20 bill publicity drive: "This isn't a campaign with some social benefit like telling kids to not use drugs or prevent drunk driving. I can't imagine there wasn't a less expensive way to handle this new bill. Instead, we have an unprecedented waste of money on a campaign to advertise money."

Johnson's own "unprecedented" campaign spending? He, and we, might as well forget about it.

Why worry, when, clearly, no one seems to care about campaign finance reform.

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