Cap on spending, feet on the ground

May 11, 2012 in Campaign finance reform, Campaign update by Micah

I was disappointed to read in the Santa Cruz Weekly that one of my competitors in the City Council race is “leaning toward” ignoring the voluntary campaign expenditures cap. I understand her; I’m scared, too. Now that my support for the cap is in print, I feel more committed to the cap. And I know that, in the most obvious sense, being committed to a cap on campaign expenditures will be a handicap in a race that I am committed to win.

I’m reading the Wellstone book on winning elections. “Run to win,” it says over and over but then it also says, “Stick to your principles”. My perspective is that government, at all levels, is less and less likely to serve the ideals of the people in this country, and that the single biggest reason for the disconnect is money. My principal is that, if we want to reform the system, albeit in an incremental way, we have to be part of the solution, just like we have to ride bicycles and walk if we are proponents of human powered transportation.

At a local level, we have a small problem that could get bigger. I don’t think that any of our local elected leaders are corrupt and so far all of them have agreed to the per person limit of $300.00 while blowing through the cap. Nonetheless, money skews the system. It rewards those who are more successful at following the logic of money. And the logic of money is often not the logic of good government. It really bums me out that my generation of local elected officials (Ryan Coonerty is exactly my age) have been the first to blow off the voluntary expenditure cap. This is something that successfully limited campaign spending for 20 years!! And the cap goes up with the cost of living.

Well, I’m scared but I still expect to win. After all, we are talking about an incremental reform. Nobody, thank god, is taking sums of money larger than $300.00 per person and nobody, not yet, has doubled the amount that I will be raising- $24,000.00. Even with this “handicap” we can win by mobilizing volunteers and getting things done with less, just like we do at People Power – just like I have done my whole life.

And, if an election still represents a contest of values, we will win in a landslide. Everyone I talk to locally, other than some of the political insiders, thinks that there should be a cap on election expenditures. Nobody thinks that one should have to spend more than $24,000.00 to win a city council election.

Of course I also have to keep my feet in the real world. Just like at People Power, just like at home, I have to keep thinking about money because it is the pragmatic way that I am going to succeed. I’m not running a pie in the sky campaign. I’m just accepting a reasonable limit. After all, even though People Power is pretty dang grassroots, we do raise $50,000.00 a year to keep it going. One way to counteract the “limit handicap” is to raise the $24,000.00 early so that I can focus on going door-to-door in September and not on bugging people for donations to get the mailer out. So, if you are reading this blog and you are inspired about campaign finance reform, send me some money!!!