Friday, September 10, 2004

The Millionaire's Amendment Opens the Floodgates To More Big Money

As Steve Kraske reports in the Kansas City Star, Jeanne Patterson, candidate for the seat for Missouri's 5th Congressional district, has spent more than one million dollars of her own fortune, triggering the new "millionaire's amendment" in campaign finance law. Her opponent can now raise money for his campaign in chunks of $6,000 from individuals, as opposed to the normal $2,000. If Patterson spends enough of her own money, the $6,000 limit is upped to $12,000.

Swell. Our government's response to the unlevel playing field created when super-rich candidates self-finance their campaigns: give wealthy interests even more influence over our elections by allowing them to give thousands of dollars on top of what they can already give.

Patterson's opponent in the general election should not be blamed for taking advantage of the larger amounts of money he can raise from each donor. Asking a candidate to unilaterally disarm is neither fair nor practical.

The point is that Congress once again looked at the problems of big money in politics not from the standpoint of the average American taxpayer-citizen-voter, but from their own selfish viewpoint as past and future candidates. The thought of not having a huge spending advantage over their opponent sends members of Congress into a panic, like someone was depriving them of oxygen -- Money! M-m-money! We . . need . . more . . m-m-money!

So limits go from $2,000 to $6,000, from $6,000 to $12,000. Whew! That was c-close. Somebody get our third branch of government a paper bag!

The millionaire's amendment is the wrong approach to the bigger problem of money in politics. While it may serve as a stop-gap measure to level the playing field when a rich candidate self-finances, it does nothing to level the playing field for average Americans trying to take part in our democracy.

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