Friday, April 08, 2005

Partisan Interests Guide Fake Campaign Finance Reform Effort in Tennessee

As Trent Seibert reports in the Tennessean, legislators in the Volunteer State are considering changes to the state's campaign finance laws. HB 1090 and 1098 would limit individual donations to a political action committee at $10,000 and limit donations to state political parties at $50,000. The bills have already passed the House and are being considered by the Senate.

The bills' opponents say the bill is targeting one man - John Gregory, CEO of King Pharmaceuticals - who contributed $550,000 to two PACs largely controlled by him last year. (Gregory also gave $325,000 last year to Jerry Kilgore, a gubernatorial candidate in Virginia.)

Those opponents might be right - how many Tennesseeans are going to be affected by limiting contributions to $10,000 to a PAC of $50,000 to a political party? Not many. Passing these bills would do very little to level the playing field for regular folks. 100 wealthy Tennesseeans could get together to form ten PACs that had a combined warchest of ten million bucks under the proposed "limit".

That doesn't mean limits are wrong, they just need to be much much lower. If Tennessee legislators truly want to act "the public's best interest" (the words of the bills' sponsor), they should limit contributions to PACs, parties, and candidates to a level that most Tennesseeans can afford. Ten thousand bucks is nowhere close.

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