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Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Ramparts of Cash Defend Incumbents

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Alabama Senate candidate Wayne Sowell raised $4,941 for his 2004 campaign against incumbent Senator Richard Shelby. Sen. Shelby, who already had about $4.5 million left over from his last campaign going into this one, raised an additional $9 million for his campaign coffers. Meaning, he had $13.5 million with which to beat back the vicious challenge that Mr. Sowell staged with his five grand.

As Sean Reilly reports in the Mobile Register, Shelby only spent $2.5 million, and eked out a victory margin of slightly greater than 2:1. He now has an eleven million smacker headstart on his next opponent. Do you suppose that might have a chilling effect on possible challengers?

Shelby's situation highlights a ridiculous aspect of federal law, which allows candidates to amass huge warchests of cash over multiple campaigns, forming a nearly impregnable fortress of incumbent security. Add in the fact that congressional candidates can raise cash in chunks of $2,000, $4,000 if they face a primary, $8,000 per couple, and can raise that money from people other than their constituents, and you arrive at the unfortunate conclusion that our congressional elections have become a bastion for a few rich people.

The way to change this is to demand reform that levels the playing field for regular folks to have their voice heard to the same extent as the fatcats. Regardless of their views about health care or Iraq or education or taxes, if a candidate doesn't recognize the basic democratic notion that one person's vote and voice mean just as much as another's, then they have no business holding an office intended to represent all of us.

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