There were several seats in the Michigan legislature last year in which the winning and losing candidates each spent more than a million dollars. That’s for a job that lasts two to four years.
Running for governor or senator will cost you more -- a lot more. That doesn’t mean the candidate who spends the most always wins. Dick DeVos can tell you all about that. His campaign outspent Jennifer Granholm’s by three to one, and lost badly.
But she still spent something like $15 million dollars, or more than twenty times what she will earn in salary during her term.
The major party candidates for U.S. Senate also dropped millions down the memory hole. But all these races are merely warm-up acts for the biggest enchilada of them all: The presidency.
Those in the know say that this will be the first billion-dollar presidential campaign. My guess is that it will turn out to be more. As of the end of March, the top six candidates had raised something like $125 million dollars. That doesn’t even count so-called “soft” money, like the $1.4 million the Commonwealth Political Action Committee, or PAC, raised for Romney in Michigan.
And all this was more than a year and a half before the main event. So is this the way we want to elect a president?
Well, it’s the way we have been doing it for years. There are people who would argue that like it or not, there is nothing anybody can do about it. We are entitled to freedom of speech.
Americans with money are entitled to put it where their mouths and convictions are. Yet there are also those who call this corruption.
The problem with politics today is the “golden rule,” a student once told me. Those that have the gold, make the rules.
There are no easy solutions for this, but I think I have a partial one. Take television out of the equation. The airwaves are public property, like the national parks, and the Federal Communications Commission has every right to insist on public service programming.
What we should do is furnish an identical amount of television time to each serious candidate to make their case to the voters. We would have to agree on a definition of serious candidate -- perhaps anyone registering five percent in the polls -- but it could be done.
Television would be compensated by the taxpayers. The candidates would not be allowed to use this time to bash their rivals, but would be required to make the case for themselves.
That might not be a perfect solution, but could go a long way towards helping us make intelligent and well-informed choices.
Give it some thought.