Thursday, January 22, 2004
Presidential candidate Howard Dean today called for lowering the limit on how much large donors can give to federal politicians from $2000 to $250. This is in stark contrast to what Congress recently did in raising that limit from $1000 to $2000. John Edwards, John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Dennis Kucinich, and Joe Lieberman all voted for the bill that contained that increase in limits, although to their credit Kerry and Kucinich at least voted against the amendment that doubled these hard money limits.
Even $250 is probably more than most Americans can afford to give a candidate. But, lowering the limit from $2000 to $250 would do an awful lot to make politicians think about regular folks instead of the one in a thousand Americans that can give a thousand dollars or more.
Dean's announcement may be somewhat self-serving, given that he has a big advantage in small donor fundraising compared to his other Democratic rivals. Maybe this is because Vermont has contribution limits of $400 per cycle for its Governor's races, which would be the equivalent of $200 in the primary and $200 in the general election -- even lower that what Dean proposes for federal races. Coming from a small donor political culture, Dean knows how to raise small money by staking out positions favored by small donors.
Dean's timing is also somewhat opportunistic, coming right after his gaffes in Iowa and before the New Hampshire primary. But, whatever his motivation, Dean has the right idea and other candidates, both Democrat and Republican, should jump on board and support it.