- The scandal involving political mega-donor Greg Lindberg is given as a reason by progressives to reinstate taxpayer-funded political campaigns
- But this practice compels people to fund speech they disagree with
- To remedy the problem of big money and special interest influence in politics, solutions must address the real source of the problem: centralized power
The recent fraud and bribery case of wealthy political donor Greg Lindberg has shone another spotlight on the inevitable result of concentrated political power. The scandal has also emboldened left-wing progressives to agitate for the resurrection of a dead and buried system of forcing taxpayers to finance political campaigns.
In this editorial, the News and Observer wrote that “Another improvement (to campaign finance laws) would be to restore and expand public financing for elections.” Likewise, the leftists at NC Policy Watch insisted that “the real fix in this matter involves a return to voter-owned elections.”
Beginning in 2007, candidates in North Carolina Council of State and appellate court races were eligible to use taxpayer funds to finance their campaigns. Labeled by advocates as “publicly financed campaigns” and “voter-owned elections,” this system asked that interested candidates meet a certain threshold of small donations to show “public support.” Once that threshold was met, candidates could access taxpayer dollars to finance their campaign.
The system was thankfully eliminated in 2013 by the new Republican majority who opposed the measure.
Taxpayer-funded political campaigns are objectionable for several reasons. First and foremost, as Thomas Jefferson declared, “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” This should be transparently obvious to anyone with a shred of respect for the rights of conscience and individual freedom.
Forcing taxpayers to finance political campaigns means that they are required to fund the spread of ideas with which they may disagree. This is compelled speech, and has no place in decent society.
Moreover, the claim that taxpayer-funded campaigns will eliminate the influence of big money and special interests in politics is hopelessly naïve. Indeed, under this system, special interests may exert even greater influence over candidates.
For example, certain organizations, such as unions, could simply mine their membership rolls for the numerous small donations required to qualify their chosen candidate for the taxpayer-provided campaign funds.
As a result, a limited amount of special interest money could leverage hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars toward their chosen candidate’s campaign.
In the end, the candidate is still beholden to the special interest group, and the special interests now have more dollars freed up to funnel to 527 groups or other PACs to advocate for their chosen candidate.
The outcome is that despite claims to the contrary by advocates of taxpayer-funded elections, even more money is entered into the campaign process, special interest influence is magnified, and taxpayers lose more of their liberty.
Furthermore, taxpayer-funded campaigns don’t address the actual root of the problem of money in politics. Wealthy donors and special interests influencing politicians are merely a symptom of a government reaching far beyond its proper parameters. It is basic ignorance to think that a bit of tinkering with campaign finance laws will eliminate a practice as old as government itself: shady dealings between those who wield great power and those who seek to profit from it.
Where massive political power centers exist, such as in Raleigh, there will be no shortage of those wishing to gain access to that power. Campaign finance laws can serve to discourage certain practices, but when there is so much to be gained from accessing power, black markets in campaign funding and political influence peddling will emerge and simply divert big money into increasingly darker corners.
If one is truly concerned about reducing big money in politics, the only meaningful solution is to significantly reduce the size and scope of government itself. With less power to access, there will be less demand for seeking to access that power.
Finally, taxpayer-funded campaigns are very unpopular. A 2013 Civitas statewide opinion poll asked respondents, “Do you support or oppose a program that uses state taxpayer dollars to help pay for the political campaigns of judicial, Council of State, and other statewide candidates?”
An overwhelming 70 percent of respondents said they opposed the measure, while only 21 percent expressed support.
If anything, the Lindberg scandal underscores the excessive nature of political power concentrated in Raleigh. The decisions of a few in the ruling class can make or break the fortunes and well-being of entire industries and millions of people. Politicians already control far too much of our tax dollars and infringe on way too many of our freedoms.
The proposed ‘solution’ to big money and special interest influence in politics presented by today’s progressives is unironically to hand over yet more control of our tax dollars and give up more of our liberty to the political class.
To truly rid the influence of big money in politics we must strike at the actual root of the problem: big government.