Six things about campaign finance — and why they matter

Jul 18, 2012

1. Republican Senate candidate Barry Hinckley says Rhode Islanders don’t much care about campaign finance reform. “I have been around for 16 months, traveling Rhode Island,” Hinckley said during a press event yesterday. “Not one person has brought up campaign finance reform to me, not one, in 16 months.”

2. Emory University professor Drew Westen wrote in the New York Times this past Sunday that people very much care about campaign finance reform — depending on how it’s described. According to his research, 82 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats believe: “Politicians should work for us, not their corporate sponsors.”

3. Back in 2005, Common Cause and a group of Brown students spearheaded an effort to introduce a comprehensive system of publicly financed elections in Rhode Island. Due to General Assembly opposition, the effort has gone nowhere.

4. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, the lead sponsor of the DISCLOSE Act, calls it an important way to shed light on political contributions by corporations and other groups.

5. Senator John McCain, a veteran of the campaign finance battles in DC, called the DISCLOSE bill (via The Hill) “political opportunism at it’s best and political demagoguery at it’s worst.”

6. State Representative Chris Blazejewski says the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision makes a disclosure bill he sponsored even more vital.

7. Money is the mother’s milk of politics, as California’s Jesse Unruh sagely observed. Talk of reform might be abstract for many people in Rhode Island and elsewhere. But money plays a big role in questions of influence, access, and why congressional incumbents get re-elected at a rate of better than 90 percent. Those are things that should concern everyone.