Tuesday, November 08, 2005

ELECTION DAY -- Campaign Spending Records Broken Across the U.S.

Wealthy interests maintained their stranglehold on American government this Election Day, as multi-millionaire candidates and money-soaked ballot campaigns spent their way towards victory. Even as powerful interests used their financial advantages to dominate the elections process, reforms on the ballot in Ohio and in a Vermont law under consideration by the Supreme Court offered opportunities for the rest of us to take our country back.

In New Jersey, multi-millionaires Doug Forrester and Jon Corzine had spent a combined $72 million of their own money in their battle to become the next governor of the state. The last gubernatorial election in the Jerz saw all candidates spend a total of $13.2 million on the primary and general elections combined.

In Virginia, a state without limits on contributions to candidates, gubernatorial candidates Jerry Kilgore and Tim Kaine had spent $42 million, much of it coming from wealthy contributors, including donations of more than $300,000 from individuals. In 2001, the two candidates who made it to the general election spent a total of $30.2 million.

In New York City, billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg was on track to break his own record of $75 million for campaign spending, which he set in 2001. As of late October he had spent $66 million, again from his own fortune, compared to the $8 million projected to be spent by opponent Fernando Ferrer.

In California, campaigns supporting or opposing eight initiatives on the ballot had spent more than $262 million, a new record for initiatives in the state. The pharmaceutical industry's biggest players spent nearly $80 million on two measures dealing with prescription drug discounts, while unions spent more than $100 million to derail four initiatives supported by Governor Schwarzenegger.

In Ohio, voters had a chance to reduce the ability of powerful interests to use their wealth to get their way at the ballot box and in government. If passed, Issue 3 would roll back contribution limits from a four-fold increase to $10,000 which was passed by money-hungry state legislators last year. If passed, Issue 4 would take the job of drawing congression districts away from those same legislators, and turn that job (along with the drawing of the state's legislative districts), over to an independent panel.

And a Vermont law instating spending limits on political races remained on tap for consideration before the U.S. Supreme Court. If the Vermont law is upheld, states and towns across the country would have a strong, simple, constitutional way to take government back from wealthy interests.

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