Thursday, March 25, 2004

Big Money vs Little Money
The race to be Portland Oregon's next mayor is a classic David versus Goliath battle. Tom Potter, the former police chief, is a regular guy who is refusing to take more than $25 from anyone for his campaign.

Potter is up against a fat cat candidate, Jim Francesconi, who is asking big donors to give him $1000 each. Francesconi plans on raising a million bucks. He's got a slew of consultants, direct mail experts, fundraisers, and professional hacks who make it their business to turn campaign money into election results. Potter has raised about $36,000. There are a total of 23 candidates, but it looks like its going to shape up into mostly a Potter vs Francesconi race.

The experts all say Potter is doomed, that's its basically impossible for anyone who's only taking small contributions from ordinary folks to compete against the media onslaught that Francesconi will be able to unleash. If they are right, they've pointed out exactly what is wrong with our campaign finance system.

This article in Willamette Week suggests that Francesconi might be influenced by some of the big money contributions he's received. But even if he's not, the money will influence the outcome of the election. If Francesconi defeats Potter, all sorts of decisions impacting the lives of Portland residents will be made differently. They'll be made by a man who the fat cats like as opposed to a man backed by regular citizens. And, they'll be made by a man who will have a hard time claiming that he won the mayors office in a fair fight.

But, help may be on the way. On April 7, the Portland City Council will consider a reform that would in-effect set contribution limits of $5. Once a candidate got $5 from 500 different voters, they'd receive public funds to compete with the likes of Francesconi and his fat cat friends. Stay tuned...

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